Violence Interrupters working to win hearts and minds of Toledo’s youth

Outreach Specialists engage students in Toledo Public Schools on a personal level
Outreach Specialists engage students in Toledo Public Schools on a personal level.
Published: Mar. 22, 2023 at 11:32 PM EDT|Updated: Mar. 23, 2023 at 12:18 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - What’s become all too common on the local news are scenes of violence. So far in 2023, nearly half of the 39 shootings in Toledo had victims age 17 and younger. That’s according to speakers at First Unitarian Church of Toledo on Glendale.

They were gathered to address the violence and talk potential solutions with those who see it up close on a daily basis.

“It’s the music. Back when I was young, it talked about selling drugs, getting money. Now, all you hear about is catching a body,” said Isaac Miles, one of Toledo’s Outreach Specialists who oversees the city’s Violence Interrupters. “Me, working in the streets, I’ve learned that there’s probably 60 real active individuals. Probably two or three gangs that are actively going back retaliating against each other. So, three of them might have lost from this gang, so they want to go take out their gang.”

Miles, along with Diana Vasquez-Longoria and Eduardo Adams Sr. are all products of Toledo Public Schools. Now, they’re assigned to certain areas where they go into the elementary, middle, and high schools and try to make connections with the kids early on.

“They’re feeling like they’re being heard and for them, that makes big difference. Just going into the schools and working with them, and just talking to them, I think helps a lot just because they’re feeling like they’re being heard by other people,” explained Vasquez-Longoria.

“Actually, we’re giving them something else to look to being. You know, everybody can’t be a doctor. Everybody can’t be an NBA player, but people can be an Outreach Specialist. You can be an Interrupter. You can help your community. So, a lot of the younger kids is liking to see we’ve got gear and all that. They’re liking to see that,” added Adams.

There are a total of nine Violence Interrupters and Outreach Specialists leading by example. Adams says they are hoping to add three more to the program in the coming year.

A spokesperson for the city of Toledo says the violence interrupters do not provide intel to the police. Toledo Police gather their own intelligence during their investigations.

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