SJU Hosts Forum on Stemming Youth Violence in Philadelphia

Education, city and police officials to weigh in

Friday, September 23, 2011

As summer began to fade, so did the flash mobs in Philadelphia. But even with the city’s 155,000 school children returning to the classroom, there is no doubt that violence in Philadelphia remains a problem.

In a first-of-its-kind effort, Saint Joseph’s University will bring together policymakers, youth advocates, and educational and law enforcement leaders for a panel discussion to address the crisis of violence in the city and its schools on Sept. 28, from 7 – 9 p.m., in Mandeville Hall’s Wolfington Teletorium (located at 54th St. and City Ave.)

Under the banner “Child as Citizen, Child as Hope,” the event seeks to view youth as stakeholders in the future of Philadelphia. It will feature keynote speaker Felton Earls, M.D., professor of social medicine at Harvard University. Earls is an internationally known scholar, visionary, and physician whose research supports the need to combat violence using a holistic approach. In his address, Earls will be discussing the importance of engaging youth in promoting secure and safe communities.

Panelists include:

  • Everett Gillison, Esq., Deputy Mayor of Philadelphia;
  • Leroy D. Nunery II, Ed.D., Acting Superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia;
  • Richard J. Ross Jr., Deputy Philadelphia Police Commissioner;
  • Susan Snyder, Philadelphia Inquirer journalist;
  • John J. DiIullio, Jr., Ph.D., Frederick Fox Leadership Professor of Politics, Religion and Civil Society at the University of Pennsylvania;
  • Maria Kefalas, Ph.D., SJU Professor of Sociology and Director of the Richard Johnson Center for Anti-Violence.

The event is sponsored by SJU’s Department of Educational Leadership, Richard Johnson Center for Anti-Violence, Office of Mission, and Faith-Justice Institute, along with the American Academy of Political and Social Science at the University of Pennsylvania.

“Youth in Philadelphia and across the country need to imagine a future that presents hope and opportunity,” says Associate Dean for Education Jeanne Brady, Ph.D. “Our aim at SJU is to begin the conversation on how we can achieve this and place children at the center of the discussion. As Dr. Earls has said, it does in fact ‘take a city to raise a child.’”

Kefalas, who is at the helm of the Philadelphia Youth Solutions Project (, an innovative social media collaboration between youth, artists, teachers, elected officials and web designers whose goals is engage the city’s young people “to be part of the solution” in their communities, points to a number of grim facts facing Philadelphia.

“We have the highest incarceration rate of any city in the nation.  We rank among the top ten poorest, hungriest and deadliest cities in the US. We average one murder a day and over 1,000 non-fatal shootings annually.”

According to Kefalas, the violence we’re seeing among the city’s youth is “payback for our neglect and chronic underinvestment in kids.”

“We are honored to have Dr. Earls here in Philadelphia,” Kefalas adds. “He calls on all of us to view children as citizens with rights and untapped potential to transform the world for the better.”

Brady will host the event. Principals and teachers from SJU’s 20 partner schools are among those invited.

“In these uncertain times, we must be ever more mindful that our nation’s schools remain the most significant institution open to all children,” Brady adds.

Media Contact

 Kelly Welsh, Director of Communications for the College of Arts and Sciences, 610-660-1385,

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