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Residents take action to address youth issues

People working and talking around a tableMission: To work toward a thriving New Haven that includes all voices and engages and values each member of its community .... [and to] encourage increased racial equity and specific inclusion of marginalized groups and youth.

Community Mediation, Inc., took the lead on a city-wide effort aimed to create a “culture of dialogue,” neighborhood by neighborhood, They hoped to generate a sense of shared ownership and accountability among New Haven residents.

Guided by a diverse group of community leaders, New Haven 2020: It Starts Now brought neighbors together to address issues affecting the well-being of youth. Close to 120 people took part in neighborhood-based dialogues.

In 2009, action teams formed in four neighborhoods. A committee was established to oversee the work of the action teams, and provide support, as needed, including evaluating the action projects.

The action teams focused on:

  • Building better relations between teens and police.  In one neighborhood, teens and police took part in a series of dialogues which led to improved relationships.
  • Improving literacy, in both English and Spanish. Immigrant Parents/ESL Action Team (JUNTA) hoped to increase student participation in ESL classes by conducting dialogue in conjunction with the ESL program at Hillhouse High School. And school administrators approved a program to give high school seniors community service credits for participating in after-school ESL classes.
  • Involving more children in a neighborhood reading program. This same neighborhood hosted a series of dialogues with teens to hear their concerns and act on their suggestions for improving the neighborhood.
  • Creating a community garden to connect youth with mentors. LEAP—a mentoring project focusing on improving academic achievement—used the garden as a way to help young people of color from one neighborhood get to know mentors.

Almost all of the action teams recognized the need to build youth leadership and to involve youth in the action projects. In 2010, several groups planned to put a lot of energy into engaging more young people—encouraging them to be trained as facilitators and to support an action effort.

Working with nonprofit groups, the police department, city officials, and concerned citizens, New Haven 2020 hopes to expand, over time.

August 13, 2010

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