Newark is using funds that would have gone to the police department for the community. The Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery Safe Summer Academy is underway with 120 participants ranging in ages from 14 to 40 at four locations around the city. The program’s goal is to provide alternate paths for success to at-risk youth and adults exposed to the criminal justice system.
Like other parts of the nation, Newark is also experiencing a spike in violence. Last week, 21-year-old Leeana Cottle was fatally shot on South 10th Street while trying to shield her friend from a hail of bullets. Wesley Jean-Marie of Valley Stream, N.Y. has been charged in the shooting.
The rise in shootings in Newark prompted the city to install 30 schools with ShotSpotter devices capable of detecting and reporting gunshots. The number of people killed by shootings has increased by 50% compared to this time last year while shootings have increased by over 40%.
Safe Summer Academy gives the participants full-time summer employment, where they also have classroom workshops. Using vision boards and other teaching methods, program mentors help the participants develop an “entrepreneurial profile” and strategies to help them start and grow small businesses with very little capital outlay.
The Academy is part of the Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma Recovery, which was created by Newark Mayor Ras Baraka one year ago. The office uses 5% of the Public Safety budget for community-based programs to address factors that lead to crime and violence and help victims of violence recover from trauma.
“This is about the community’s investment in the passions and aspirations of people often overlooked by educational efforts,” Newark Mayor Ras Baraka said. “We want to position them to break the generational cycle that leads them to violence, drug use and crime by giving them insight into their innate strengths and abilities to create legal paths to success.”
Office of Violence Prevention and Trauma director Lakeesha Eure said that Adamcy is a first step in getting at-risk residents on the right track to success. The summer program participants work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday and the target populations were people with a history of arrests or exposure to incarceration or violence, either as a victim or perpetrator.
“The unofficial motto of the program is ‘flipping the game and changing the mindsets,’” she said. “We give them the tools to visualize their dreams, and an income and a little seed money to get them started.”
Eure added that 90% of crime in Newark happens in 10% of the city’s geography. Outreach workers went into the areas to recruit for the program.
“We are taking a holistic approach for the individuals to benefit themselves and the community,” Eure said.
In addition to the entrepreneurial skills, participants are taking a wide range of classes to enhance their financial, emotional and social skills, including stress management and coping, conflict resolution, developing healthy relationships, habits and nutrition, public speaking and civic engagements, and money and home management.