Youth Violence Prevention: New Haven

In both FY14 and FY15 the Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy (IMRP) at Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) received grants from the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) through funds set aside by Senator Toni Harp, Rep Gary Winfield and Rep. Juan Candelaria to help address youth violence in the City of New Haven. As part of the grant, the IMRP awarded funds through a Memorandum of Agreement and Personal Service Agreement, respectively, to two sub-grantees, Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) and the Connecticut Center for Nonviolence (CTCN).

Reducing Youth Violence by Institutionalizing Nonviolence in the City of New Haven

The long-term (5-10 years) goal of this initiative is to reduce violent crime among youth in the city of New Haven by creating healthier and safer environments through the teaching and application of Kingian Nonviolence Conflict Reconciliation.
This plan is being implemented by the CTCN in collaboration with the Institute for Municipal and Regional Policy (IMRP) and Southern Connecticut State University through a grant awarded from the Connecticut General Assembly. Other key community organization partners include The New Haven Family Alliance (NHFA), Saint Martin de Porres Academy (SMDP), and Connecticut Center for Arts and Technology (CONNCAT).

CTCN’s trainings are based upon The Nonviolence Briefing Booklet: A 2-¬‐Day Introductory Workshop to Kingian Nonviolence Conflict Reconciliation (LaFayette and Jehnsen, 2007). As its name implies, the Two-¬‐Day Core Introduction serves to introduce people to Kingian Nonviolence Conflict Reconciliation. Participants learn about Dr. Martin Luther King’s philosophy and the practice of nonviolence. Due to its short time frame, the two-day workshop is not expected to result in major attitudinal or behavioral shifts.
Those adults who are drawn to the teachings of Kingian Nonviolence are encouraged to sign up for the more intensive Level-I Certification training, which is expected to lead to personal transformation and to build nonviolence leadership capacity. Children and youth receive more intensive training through CTCN’s ThinKING Nonviolence Leadership Academy.

New Haven After School Youth Violence Prevention Program

In January 2014, Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) was awarded a grant to implement an after school violence prevention program in Hill Central School, a K-8 school which is part of New Haven Public Schools District (NPHS). The program was to be aimed at grades 6-8, but was adapted to include the fifth grade as well. The funding was provided from the Institute of Municipal and Regional Policy at Central Connecticut State University and has been continued through a grant awarded in October 2014.
The long term goal of this program is to reduce the number of violent incidents, both in school and in the community. The program intends to accomplish this goal through an after school program. There are two ways that this program will work to reduce violence among youth. First, the program seeks to offer students the opportunities to develop skills in various arts, e.g., music, painting, drama, and sports, competitive and non- competitive during a critical time during the day. Using new enrichment opportunities will open the students up to new possibilities for their lives, both in finding meaningful ways to spend leisure time and possibly identifying potential careers by finding unknown talents within themselves. Keeping young students occupied during the after-school hours has been shown to reduce many at-risk behaviors and their associated consequences, including substance use, sexual behaviors, and violence behaviors.

The second way this program will accomplish this goal of reducing violence is by providing students with access to mentoring role models, which are the on-site program staff. Hiring college and post-college individuals to work as counselors and program directors in the after school program offers the students access to adults who can have a significant impact in their lives. Finding counselors and staff with similar backgrounds allows the youth to see all the future possibilities they can have by working hard in school and avoiding consequences from poor decision making. Making these adult connections is critical for at- risk youth and has been shown to be effective for long term academic success.

The program was also designed in a manner that encourages participation through the reduction of traditional barriers to program involvement. The program operates on the school site five days a week, beginning right at dismissal. There is after school busing provided for students so that they may become involved and still have a safe method of transportation home; this is even more critical when working with families that may not have transportation access.

In order to expose students to new enrichment activities, the program contracted with a number of professional artists, musicians, and athletes to run the program. It was important to include many active activities, as students have been sitting in classes all day and providing time to exercise and express energy is important at this age. New sports were introduced, such as rugby and two styles of dancing. Many individuals from across Southern’s network were brought in as collaborative partners to provide important services.