An officer interacts with youth in West Palm Beach.
Courtesy of West Palm Beach Insider Newsletter
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Creating opportunity and reducing violence for young people remains a top priority for Mayor Jeri Muoio and the City of West Palm Beach.
Under the leadership of Muoio, Coordinator of Community Initiatives Kevin Jones launched The Mayor’s Village Initiative to focus on the challenges facing young people, particularly black boys and young men in specific areas of the city.
Right now, the initiative’s focus is on young people living in the city’s North End. The “village” consists of government agencies, businesses, concerned citizens, the faith community, non-profits, philanthropists and schools. The city acts as an umbrella to pull together its vast resources to help address this issue.
During a recent Mayor/Commission Work Session, Jones updated commissioners on the initiative’s progress and detailed the current programs under the Mayor’s Village Initiative. They include:
Community and Police Dialogues/Kids and Cops Workshops: The Community and Police dialogues consist of four to five week conversations between police officers, community residents and community social service providers.
The Kids and Cops Workshops are opportunities for the youth to express their thoughts and feelings about their relationships with law enforcement. Additionally, it allows the young men to hear from police officers about their roles in the community. The goal of these workshops is to build relationships and improve communication between youth and law enforcement.
Workforce Development Program: The goal of this program is to connect black residents to employment and to assist them in overcoming any barriers to obtaining employment. Educational institutions, community groups and members of the private sector support this program.
Many jobs require training, and the goal is to make training available for the residents knowing that – at the end of their training – a job is waiting.
Neighborhood Accountability Board (NAB): Facilitated out of the Pleasant City Youth Empowerment Center, the goal of NAB is for first-time misdemeanor juvenile offenders to repair the harm that was caused in the community. Based on the principles of restorative justice, a conference of the offender, their parents, the victim (if they want to attend), and a board of trained neighborhood volunteers address the offense and agree on appropriate sanctions. The youth has approximately 90 days to successfully complete their assigned sanctions so that the offense will not be on their record.
Operation Youth Violence: Reduction, Intervention and Prevention (RIP): Developed by the West Palm Beach Police Department, this program provides first time felony offenders ages 13-24 with the necessary resources and mentoring in hopes that they will become productive members of the community. These youth are offered the opportunity to enroll in GED programs, job readiness courses, counseling and subsidized employment. These services are provided through the Urban League of Palm Beach County and the Pleasant City Youth Empowerment Center.
Peace in the Streets Walks:Each month, concerned citizens, elected officials and WPBPD walk three distinct neighborhoods in the North End to promote Peace in the Streets and to engage with residents. This is an opportunity for dialogue on how to collectively make communities in West Palm Beach safer.
“Improving the lives of our youths should be a top priority for everyone living in our city,” said Muoio. “Whether you are a resident or a business owner, I invite you to join us in helping to create opportunities that will lead to a better future for young men and women in West Palm Beach.”
To date, the city has employed 20 individuals through the partnership it has with Urban League.
“We have helped guide many young African American residents in our city toward economic opportunities, not only in city departments but also in local businesses,” said Jones. “We want to continue that. Education and economic opportunities are so important.”
Currently, the Mayor’s Office is working to strategically align countywide initiatives with the Mayor’s Village Initiative. The Mayor’s Village Initiative is part of a larger national initiative called Cities United and is sponsored by the National League of Cities. For more information, visit www.citiesunited.org.
Business owners interested in providing opportunities, including internships, can contact Jones at 561-822-1413.