As part of our strategy to mitigate conditions that contribute to youth violence, the City is investing $221,400 into violence prevention-focused programming this summer. COVID-19 has deprived our young people of many traditional outlets for inter-personal contacts and social interactions. Social isolation has exacerbated mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression. This can disproportionately impact low-income youth and youth of color. Below are four youth violence prevention strategies recruited and approved by my office for funding this summer. Funding will provide contracted agencies the means to expand youth employment opportunities and provide violence prevention programming through the summer and fall.

Parks Alive 2022

Parks Alive is a collaborative effort across multiple City departments and involves a wide-variety of community-based stakeholders and mobile resources. These 31 events, occurring in eight parks, will provide opportunities for residents to come together and build relationships. The events will provide a structure that can be replicated by residents and will begin to build the potential of neighborhood-led events in the future.These events will also provide a foundation that in future years can grow into a strategy that includes intentional resident leadership building, identification and support for “credible messengers”, opportunities for skill-building in conflict interruption and mediation, as well as many other violence prevention strategies that rely on trusting relationships amongst residents, local government and other stakeholders.

Youth will be directly engaged and paid to help plan and implement activities at the Parks Alive events in their neighborhood. CDD will work directly with neighborhood-based youth service providers to involve their youth participants (ideally most of whom live in the neighborhood by the park) to develop an activity to lead, something to perform, plan food/snacks to hand out, host an art station or gather input/ideas from other youth and adult residents about conditions in and desires for the neighborhood.

T.R.Y. Transforming and Reaching Our Youth

The T.R.Y. program initiative is a program created by Dr. Marcus Allen, pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church. The purpose of this summer program is to inspire, motivate and encourage youth ages 12-17 and focuses on re-engaging the youth in a different way by offering mentorship, employment and educational opportunities. This program will allow mentors to develop meaningful relationships with young people and provide a positive impact in their lives. It will also give them the necessary tools to assist in making better choices to stay on the right track. The goal is to demonstrate to the youth if they just T.R.Y., they will discover positive outcomes.

The program will serve 25-30 youth, engaging each day with different community leaders, and is supported by partnership with the Urban League of Greater Madison, Anesis Therapy and Madison Roots, LLC. The purpose of this is to provide vision to the youth of what they can aspire to become. Weekly activities include: group therapy sessions, financial literacy classes, community service projects, sports camps and other activities to enhance educational awareness. Staff also intend to engage with parents on a weekly basis to provide support and resources as needed.

Dear Diary Mentoring

Dear Diary is a mentoring program for Black girls to rewrite the broken narrative of Black girlhood and womanhood. Dear Diary, Inc. provides free programming for high school (9th-12th grade) Black girls, including those in the justice system, which provides support, advice and love using strategically designed mentoring services in the areas of 1) self-esteem, 2) academic achievement, 3) personal development, 4) professional excellence, 5) family engagement and 6) service. Currently, Dear Diary, Inc. supports throughout Dane County with specific interest and recruiting focuses in key neighborhoods.

This summer and fall, Dear Diary, Inc. will host The Black Girl Experience for juniors and seniors within the program to provide them real-life work experience and the training to be in various professional settings of their choice. The girls will spend 6 weeks building out their professional portfolios while simultaneously working alongside professionals in Madison who are currently in their area of interest. Each week, the girls will start and end their week by learning about Black women throughout history, and armed with that knowledge will curate a plan for their future selves; including but not limited to professional portfolios, professional headshots and college planning.

Additionally, they will participate in panel discussions from Black women professionals, learn financial literacy, receive academic tutoring and support, build new friendships and develop their personal and professional brand. The remaining days of the week they will be “in the field”, working within their area of interest through an internship co-created with us and local businesses and organizations in Madison. Each of them will receive a stipend for their work, as well as high school credit and an Employment Certification. Finally, Dear Diary, Inc. will end the Black Girl Experience with a trip to Washington D.C. to visit the African American History Museum, further inspiring and motivating the girls.

Seein’ is Believin’

Seein’ is Believin’ is an annual summer outreach program dedicated to introducing youth to career, academic and personal leadership opportunities right in their backyards, focusing on young Black and Brown men ages 13-24. Seein' is Believin’ also provides mental health protective factors throughout the summer through open talkback sessions, career fairs, scavenger hunts and obstacle courses that challenge the youth’s minds, bodies and souls.

ARPA logo

This program focuses on factors that can place individuals at risk of becoming involved in crime. The activities in this program encourage significant participation by individuals in all parts of the project. Examples include conflict-resolution classes, skill-building training groups and intergenerational projects where community elders share knowledge and traditions with youth.

I am so thankful to the community members who have stepped up to support our youth through this unique and inventive programming, whether as leaders of these programs, partner organizations, supportive neighbors or volunteers currently being recruited to support these programs. We can’t do this work without you, and once again I thank President Biden for the ARPA funds that make this programming possible.

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