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Special Agent in Charge Alex J. Turner of the Norfolk Field Office of the FBI announced his selection of Mr. Robert Stephens, co-founder and facilitator of the Community Action Coalition of Suffolk, Virginia, as the local recipient of the FBI’s 2011 Director’s Community Leadership Award for his commitment to positive community relations.
Mr. Stephens, a pragmatic visionary, has been working with the community of Suffolk, Virginia since 2009 when he began to solicit community input to establish a community-wide youth development and violence prevention strategy. In 2010, Mr. Stephens formed the Community Action Committee (CAC), a non-profit organization, in response to continued youth violence, juvenile delinquency, lack of responsive prevention, and, ultimately, the citizens’ call for change. Today, the CAC serves as a catalyst for a series of programs and convener of initiatives that address socio-cultural and economic issues in the City of Suffolk.
Under the leadership of Mr. Stephens, the CAC was instrumental in launching a student-led, anti-violence campaign known as Be Fight Free (BFF) during the 2010-2011 school year to develop youth leaders that would spread awareness of violence in schools and in the community of Suffolk. As BFF student committees were formed in schools, students began to garner additional support from the school division and local law enforcement. Furthermore, students planned and executed rallies, distributed BFF wristbands and buttons, and placed campaign banners in schools. In January 2011, Suffolk Public Schools designated January as Violence Prevention Month to coordinate with the BFF Campaign. As a result of this effort, students have reportedly become more vocal and willing to reach outside of the boundaries of schools and challenge the community at large to address violence. In King’s Fork High School, over 700 students signed pledges to remain violence free. In addition, Lakeland High School has witnessed a 70 percent decrease in the amount of violent acts.
Mr. Stephens will be formally presented with the award on Monday, October 3, 2011, at 1:30 p.m. at the office of the Norfolk FBI, located at 150 Corporate Boulevard, Norfolk, Virginia 23502. Members of the press and media are invited to attend.