By John Lynds
In front of a packed auditorium of seventh graders Monday at the Mario Umana Academy, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, District Attorney Dan Conley and Sheriff Steve Tompkins celebrated the students recent completion of the Overcoming Violence/Your Future, Your Decision program.
The program, a collaboration between Conley and Tompkins’ Overcoming Violence program and Ortiz’s Your Future, Your Decision program, emphasizes the importance of good decision-making skills coupled with video interviews with criminal justice professionals, survivors of violent crime, incarcerated offenders, and others to show the long-term consequences of positive and negative choices.
At the event Monday, Ortiz talked of her experience growing up in New York City and the importance of stying out of trouble and focusing on school as path to a successful life.
“When I look at you I see myself,” Ortiz told the class. “I hope when you look at someone like me and my background and experience that you realize you can achieve the same goals in life.”
As the first woman and Latina U.S. Attorney in history, Ortiz, a daughter of Puerto Rican immigrants, said it was her family’s values of working hard and having dedication to a dream was very important.
“They (my parents) taught me certain values that if I worked hard and focused on school, a quality education would be key to my happiness and success in life,” said Ortiz. “I hope this is a message that you understand because if you work hard you can achieve your dreams–whatever those dreams are, whether you want to be a teacher, an astronaut, a lawyer, a doctor, you can achieve your dreams if you work hard and have dedication to something.”
Conley added that he launched his Overcoming Violence program along with the Sheriff’s Department because he truly cares about the future of all children and students in the district.
“Because you participated in this program you are on the path to becoming an assistant district attorney, a principal, a district attorney, a mayor someday if stay on the right track,” said Conley. “So many of the problems that we see in the city are over unnecessary conflicts that we as adults think are pretty ridiculous. Those who are in gangs and the things they fight about and, even worse, harm each other over are in almost all cases are unnecessary. But through this program you have learned the roots of violence and now have the knowledge to end some of those conflicts or even prevent them before they happen. The great thing about knowledge you can now share that knowledge. So we are asking you to be our ambassadors and when you bump into your peers this summer please pass along the knowledge you learned here in this program.”
Tompkins added that the most important thing for students to do is stay in school, pay attention and work hard.
“You don’t want to find yourself in the criminal justice system because once you are in its very very hard to climb back out,” said Tompkins. “It will, for a long time, prevent you from reaching your goals and attaining the things you want in life like a college education, a home, a car, money for a home or a car. You may not realize it now but life goes by fast and soon you will be 20, 30 and 40 years old and you don’t want to waste that time trying to get out of the criminal justice system.”
In 2004, Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley’s office launched Understanding Violence, a reality-based curriculum teaching the importance of education and direction in keeping teens and young adults away from gangs and violence. Ten years later, in partnership with UMass Boston, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, and the City of Boston, the office updated and modernized the program with a new name and a new goal and is now Overcoming Violence.
Overcoming Violence uses an interview documentary, guest speakers, site visits, and group discussions to demonstrate for young people the long-term consequences of their positive and negative choices – especially as they relate to staying in school and choosing the right role models versus using drugs and engaging in violent crime. It took the place of the curriculum launched by Conley’s office in 2004, and was updated with the help of graduate students in the UMass Boston Master’s in Human Services program, the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, Boston Public Schools students, and the Boston Police Department.
“The most effective anti violence program is education,” said Conley.
The program then partnered with Ortiz’s program ‘Your Future, Your Decision’ this year at the Umana to drive home the point of education as a means of overcoming drugs and violence.
The “Your Future, Your Decision” program has been presented by the U.S. Attorney’s Office to over 2,700 middle school students around the state, combining an emphasis on the importance of good decision-making skills with a resource fair featuring after-school and summer activities.
Front Page, U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz and District Attorney Dan Conley address Mario Umana students from the 7th grade class Monday who recently completed the Overcoming Violence/Your Future, Your Decision program.
U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, Umana Principal Claudia Gutierrez and Jean Umana.
Jean Umana tells the students to follow their dreams and work towards those dreams.
District Attorney Dan Conley, Attorney Carmen Ortiz and Umana Principal Claudia Gutierrez.
Sheriff Steve Tompkins tells kids the importance of education as a means to overcoming drugs and violence.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Carlos Lopez addresses the students.
Umana Principal Claudia Gutierrez welcomes the school’s special guests.
Students applaud U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz.
Umana students are handed certificates for their completion of the Overcoming Violence/Your Future, Your Decision program.