Violence is on the rise across New York State and the age of the victims and the accused is getting younger and younger. It is also now involving girls, which statistically is not the norm for violent crimes. A new program is reaching out to at-risk teen girls to encourage and support them in an effort to turn around this trend.

Roshad Rush works at PEACE, Inc. and offers family support assistance. She reads a poem the girls read every time they meet, “I have endured. I have been broken. I have known hardship. I have lost myself. But, here I stand, growing stronger each day. I will never forget the harsh lessons in my life.”

Andrea Bernard manages youth services at PEACE, Inc.

“It’s heartbreaking. Not only the kid who’s hurt or passed but also for that family the child that committed the crime. Our babies committing crimes on other babies,” says Bernard.

Bernard, Roshad Rush, and Mary Beth Welch don’t wear badges or carry guns at PEACE, Inc., but they too are fighting the surge in youth violence. Specifically, they say their calling now is to work with girls ages 13 and 14.

“It’s a decision away, you know. It can be a boy that they like. They can make some decisions that’s not good for them only because they want to feel that love. Whether it’s good love or bad love, they just want to fill that need,” says Rush.

PEACE, Inc. Director Mary Beth Welch says girls in this age group are overlooked and she wants this program to grow across New York State.

“As we continued to talk to people, it was a series of conversations that we realized that young girls were the one population that was being neglected,” says Welch.

"We always end with, 'Who wants ice cream?' they're all like, ‘Yes!’" says Rush.

Girl’s Circle is a safe confidential place for young ladies to talk with a curriculum focused on social-emotional development. They provide food and fun activities that relate to the program. Rush leads the group. She is open about her own struggles with the teens.

“I reiterate with the girls that you are not your circumstances. You are more than that. You have a goal. You have dreams that you have to fulfill being a young woman. I am able to feel and to understand what some of these girls are going through because I have been through it myself. You don’t know what you’re going to hear, so I prepare myself for the worst, hoping for the best. And I understand that the most crucial time for girls is middle and high school,” says Rush.

Girl’s Circle launched early in 2021 and they are already seeing progress from the young ladies that participate.

“Just from talking to the girls, I can see a difference. These young ladies are hurting and what an opportunity to have Girl’s Circle where they can share what they are going through and know that it is a safe place; know that we are there to help and support them,” says Bernard.

“They never have to be alone in any journey that they may have now or in the future,” says Welch.

“You do not have to put yourself in certain circumstances, because if it is real love, no one will want anything from you,” adds Rush.

PEACE, Inc. offers numerous services of support to the entire family.

To learn more about the Girl’s Circle, or any of their other programs, you can connect with them through the PEACE, Inc. website.