Understanding youth and the cycle of violence: Q & A with Nicole Jackman of Silver Oak Academy

Understanding youth and the cycle of violence: Q & A with Nicole Jackman of Silver Oak Academy

When it comes to young people, exposure to violence can shape their values, and those values can sometimes lead to a further cycle of violence, at least that's been the experience of Nicole Jackman, clinical director at Silver Oak Academy in Keymar, a school for at-risk boys. While her job may be to assure that students at the school are receiving any care they may need for mental health needs, she believes you need to understand the way violence has shaped the underlying beliefs of a person in order to provide treatment that actually addresses their needs.

On Thursday, Jackman will bring her insights from more than five years of working with youths who have been shaped by exposure to drugs and violence to the second annual Drug and Violence Awareness Expo at the Carroll County Agricultural Center's Shipley Arena, where she will be one of a large slate of speakers.


The expo is a collaboration involving the local business community, law enforcement, prevention professionals, people in recovery and concerned parents. The program is aimed at bringing the community together to grasp the reality and scope of the problems of drug abuse and domestic violence in Carroll, as well as to formulate solutions.

The expo will take place 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday and will also feature speakers from the State's Attorney's Office, the Carroll County Health Department and parent activists. Jackman will be presenting from 1:30 until 2 p.m.

The Times caught up with Jackman to learn more about her experiences and what she will be presenting to audiences at the Drug and Violence Awareness Expo.

Q: You are the clinical director at Silver Oak Academy. Can you tell us a bit about what you do in that role and how drugs and violence have affected that work and the people you work with?

A: As the Clinical Director I am primarily responsible for assessing student mental health needs, supervising activities and staff that provide individual, group and family therapy. I work with our staff to assure every student who enters Silver Oak receives individualized treatment services of high quality. Our team assesses each student and identifies what his risks and needs are and how it is supporting his negative behaviors. For majority of our students substance use and community violence are risk factors that they struggle to cope with, resulting in poor decision making. We assure that each student is given opportunities to learn and role play skills to make healthier choices. We not only teach our students positive conflict resolution techniques, relapse prevention strategies, effective communication and pro-social skills but we challenge their risky thinking. At Silver Oak, we use cognitive behavioral strategies to push our students to understand that their thinking controls their behavior. Our students are at a crossroads where they will need to decide to use the tools given to them to stop the cycle of violence within their homes and community or contribute to the ever growing epidemic of violent casualties.

Q: What will you be speaking about at the upcoming Drug and Violence Expo?

A: I, along with my colleague Courtney Wunderlich, will be presenting on how violence impacts human development throughout the life span. We will be looking at the stages of development while educating the audience on the impact violence has in all stages of life. Many people do not realize that the cycle of violence, or the acceptance of violent behavior, starts at a young age. It is in our early development where core values and beliefs begin to form. We will discuss that when individuals experience violence it impacts our values. Values are our underlying attitudes and beliefs, they guide how we view and interact with the world around us; when violence is introduced on a consistent basis or a major life event it impacts our ability to fully develop in a healthy manner.

Q: In what ways are your experiences at Silver Oak, and your talk, relevant to Carroll County today? Do you see the affects of violence on youth here?

A: Even though Silver Oak may not be comprised of Carroll County or rural youth, there are similarities no matter where you live. We all are aware that our society is in turmoil and encounters violent acts on a consistent basis. We all are impacted by these acts and they shape our view of the world, the future and how we see ourselves. Carroll County is no different. The myth that our rural youth are not impacted from events such as riots, shootings, significant gang violence and other newsworthy events minimizes the everyday violence our county youth face daily. Carroll County is not exempt from violence. The violence within in our county may be at a different frequency and/or intensity than urban areas but our youth still experience domestic violence in the home, dating abuse, bullying, and societal accepted acts of aggression. In our presentation, the audience will see universal examples of how violence impacts not only our youth but all phases of the life cycle. At Silver Oak, I work primarily with urban youth and I also live in Carroll County so I can appreciate the need to understand the violence urban youth have encountered and how it has shaped their lens of the world. Carroll County is a migrating point for outlying areas where families are trying to escape poverty, community violence and inadequate school systems, while finding a safer haven within our county lines. Carroll County residents need to be realistic that the urban migration brings a culture clash. Violence and substance use are overwhelming in many urban areas and Carroll County residents will need to make an effort to understand that changing one's attitudes and beliefs is a difficult challenge when throughout the life span these are the experiences that one has lived with. These experiences shape their value systems and result in behaviors that county residents may struggle to understand.

Q: What are some things you wished people understood better when it comes to violence and youth development?

A: I hope people begin to realize that it starts within the home. Not only as the clinical director but also a mother of three amazing daughters, I know firsthand that the home environment is the foundation for our children and how they develop into productive, responsible, respectful and unique adults. So many individuals want to place blame on the media, peer pressure, lack of structure in school, broken government and policies, and I agree all of those are contributing factors and we will discuss them in our presentation. However, parents, grandparents and other caregivers need to take back ownership of their homes and understand they can have the greatest influence on how their child views and treats others. Children learn from what they hear, see and do every day and that starts within the home. There are many challenges that will impact youth development that are unable to be controlled but we forget that there are just as many that we can control. Whether it is my work with Silver Oak families or my own mothering skills, it is imperative that there is an understanding that one's core principles on how we respect others and ourselves begins with what is demonstrated consistently at home and talked about around the dinner table. One's behavior is a direct result from their thinking and attitude and beliefs. Attitudes and beliefs begin to form at an early age and are influenced by those in the home just as much as the experiences they will face outside the home. The more a child or youth is exposed to violence the greater impact it has on their development.

Q: What are the key things you would like people to take away from your presentation?

A: I hope the audience gains a better understanding that there are a multitude of factors that influence childhood and youth development. I would like to challenge the audience to reflect on their own behaviors and how they may be supporting the desensitization of violence in our culture, while indirectly impacting our county's youth. Lastly, I want them to acknowledge the importance that thinking does control our behavior and to reduce violence throughout the life span it takes consistent positive experiences.




If you go

What: The 2nd annual Drug and Violence Awareness Expo

When: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday, April 28

Where: Carroll County Agricultural Center Shipley Arena, 706 Agricultural Center Drive, Westminster

Cost: Free

Presentation Schedule

10:30-11 a.m. — Drug trends in Carroll County

11:15-11:45 a.m. — Youth opioid prevention

Noon-12:30 p.m. — Ganging up on drugs and violence

12:45-1:15 p.m. — Carroll County gangs awareness

1:30-2 p.m. — Understanding the impact of violence on youth

2:15-2:45 p.m. — Domestic violence and the community

3-3:30 p.m. — Rape — A silent epidemic

3:45-4:15 p.m. — Domestic violence and seniors

4:30-5 p.m. — Turning tragedy into healing by helping others

5:15-5:45 p.m. — Dispelling myths about domestic violence and child abuse

6-6:15 p.m. — Ceremony

6:30-6:45 p.m. — FoolProof

6:45-7:30 p.m. — Special presentation with state's attorney