Mayor's City Youth Initiative Takes Shape
(5/11/2006) Mayor John DeStefano, Jr. this week received Board of Aldermen approval to invest in the City’s underserved teens by allocating $500,000 to start the Youth Initiative with programming kicking in just as the school year ends.
The Mayor launched a vision for the Youth Initiative during his inaugural speech and outlined three key areas – launching an Open Schools Initiative; increasing summer jobs for teens; and harnessing adult volunteers to mentor young people. The Mayor said he is encouraged that all three areas are taking shape.
“All of these programs will address a very critical but underserved population – our young adolescents who may have outgrown summer schools and camps,” the Mayor said. “The City has the chance to show these young people that we care about them by targeting investments in recreation, structured activities and meaningful employment.”
The funding will designate three schools as “Open Schools” starting June 26 and serving youth ages 12-18. In the meantime, the forecast for summer hiring for teenagers is the brightest it has been in several years and a cadre of 100 volunteers have signed up with Mentor New Haven.
The Mayor has directed city staff to invest $97,330 for the summer pilot. Long term, the City will designate six schools as “Open Schools” with after-school programming targeted to 12-18 year olds. The City will spend $783,000 in fiscal year 2006-07. Over a five year period, it will invest a total of $4 million in the Open Schools Initiative, Youth@Work and Mentor New Haven.
The co-chairs of the Youth Initiative Committee said they are pleased. “We are delighted to see this initiative come to life in a way that will really benefit young people,” said co-chair Cynthia Rojas. Co-chair Che Dawson said, "This is a great first step by the City. The City is modeling for the rest of the community what it means to invest in young people."
Here is an update on the three areas outlined by the Mayor under his Youth Initiative:
First three schools to open June 26 in Open Schools Initiative As part of the Open Schools Initiative, the City will designate six new schools as “Open Schools” with three beginning programming this June and the other three phased in during fall 2006. The summer program expects to serve up to 100 children per site daily. Two pilot schools confirmed are John S. Martinez in Fair Haven; King-Robinson in the Newhallville area and a third is proposed as Clemente Leadership Academy, with details still being worked out on the third location. Each one will offer an eight-week program June 26-August 18, Mondays through Fridays, from 3 p.m. – 8 p.m. Activities will be coordinated by the City’s Parks and Recreation staff and by community-based organizations and will include recreational activities, such as gym, basketball, volleyball, swimming, games and movies and special activities (dance classes, drumming, arts and crafts, creative writing, drawing and painting, puppet and mask making ceramics). Total cost for the summer initiative is $97,330 and will include hiring an Open Schools Initiative Coordinator, site directors and program aides and funding to outside vendors for special programming.
The Mayor also challenged the community to work aggressively to expand youth employment. For the first time in four years, the General Assembly has approved funding to Connecticut cities for teen summer hiring. The City of New Haven expects to gain at least $300,000 from that allocation. Coupled with the fundraising that Stephanie Barnes of Youth @ Work has done, Community Services Administrator Sheila Allen Bell said she expects the City will be able to employ at least 700 teenagers this year. That’s in contrast to last summer’s Youth @ Work” Initiative, where the City had funding to hire only 470 youth between the ages of 13 and 18. Youth @ Work is a public-private partnership of the City of New Haven, Workforce Alliance, the New Haven Board of Education, the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce and Empower New Haven established to provide youth ages 14-19 with year-round employment opportunities, career development activities and work readiness skills to succeed in the world of work and in life.
Mentor New Haven
The third piece is “Mentor New Haven,” in which the Mayor is challenging city employees to volunteer at least two hours a month in the Open Schools Initiative. The Mayor made the initial challenge at the inauguration and has followed up with letters attached to city employees’ paychecks. Approximately 100 people have signed up. Mentors will have the chance to start volunteering in June, when the pilot schools are operational.