School-based violence intervention program shows promise 

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — West Mesa High School has had its share of problems in recent months, like guns found on campus and a shooting at a park across the street last week involving two APS students.

But where there are problems, there are also solutions.

West Mesa High School worked with the city to launch a pilot program in October, called the “School-Based Violence Intervention Program” or VIP.

“We help them when they reach a fork in the road to where they could either go down a negative path or a positive path,” said Michael Parra, the school-based VIP Coordinator. “We push them down that positive path, so they make smarter choices.”

Parra says he’s seeing success already. He started with four students trickling in, and is already up to about 15 coming in regularly for guidance through this program.

“They’re young adults, they have young adult problems, and sometimes they just need to be heard, and that’s what we do,” said Parra. “The kids just- are looking for structure, and we’re able to sit there and give it to them.”

Helping students to make smarter choices, like getting back to class, is the first priority. Then comes work and resource opportunities.

“All they gotta do is turn on the TV, and they’re exposed to the violence on the streets right now. But again the program is all about choices,” said Parra. “It’s not my job to do the work for them. It’s my job to give them the tools to get it done. So that’s what I do and thankfully everything has been moving in a positive path.”

Parra and other leaders say their long-term hope is to expand into every APS high school and even middle school to help children in need.