National Youth Violence Prevention Week: Spotlight on Think First

In Philadelphia County, the leading cause of death for people between the ages of 5 and 24 is assault and homicide. Yes, you read that correctly. The number one reason young people die in Philadelphia is violence. But it’s not just measured in deaths. Violence is also a leading cause of disability in young people as well, specifically brain and spinal cord injuries. March 18 – 23 is National Youth Violence Prevention Week, an education initiative designed to raise awareness and to educate students, teachers, school administrators, counselors, school resource officers, school staff, parents, and the public on effective ways to prevent or reduce youth violence.

Magee is addressing the problem of youth violence not just this week, but all year long with our Think First program. This award-winning program from National Head and Spinal Cord Injury Prevention is for teens and young adults is offered to schools in the Delaware Valley, and stresses prevention and “thinking first” to prevent permanent brain and spinal cord injuries. The program is designed to be interactive, allowing students to participate by volunteering to help demonstrate the lessons, or by asking questions.

There are many things that make Magee’s Think First program effective—but perhaps the greatest motivator is the program’s leader, Joe Davis.

Joe knows what he’s talking about. Not theoretically. Actually. He has been there, done that and, thankfully, lived to tell about it. At age 25, Joe was a high school drop-out who couldn’t hold a job, addicted to a litany of drugs and holding people up to pay for his habit. One day, he made the wrong person angry. When he walked out his front door to meet the aggressor, he never dreamed those steps would be his last. Joe was shot. The bullet lodged in his spinal cord, and rendered him a T-3 paraplegic.

It would take months of rehabilitation from his injury and seven more years struggling through addiction before Joe was able get his life where he wanted it to be. He enrolled in Magee’s vocational rehab program, and went on to not only complete his GED, but also a master’s degree in social work and a certification in alcohol and drug counseling. He now spends his days with the Think First program, hoping to course-correct young people that may be heading down the same path he was.

This week, we pay special attention to this issue and offer Joe our thanks. If you are interested in having Joe speak at your school or group, or would like to talk to him more about the issue of youth violence, please email him at jdavis@mageerehab.org.

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