A lot is being done for the youth in Danville, Virginia that most people are not talking about. People have been talking about troubled youth on social media, because two weeks ago videos of fighting at George Washington High School got put on the internet. This morning the Danville Register & Bee had a story titled “‘We’ve got brawls in the school.’ Parents question Danville superintendent over security at GW.” Parents are concerned, however a lot is being done to help youth get and stay on the right track, which deserves everyone’s attention and support.
One important program making a big impact is Project Imagine, which consists of training and mentoring for such kids. Robert David, the youth services and gang violence prevention coordinator for the City of Danville, said the training gives the teens a base from which to build. The program, he added, teaches things that most people take for granted, and as the teens learn, they develop confidence. Confidence leads to developing self-value and staying off the streets, he said. The program started in 2018 and consisted of a nine-week paid work experience and mentoring while on the job with a partnering agency.
Robert David gave an interview with River City TV about the program.
On Wednesday a ceremony was held for a third class of teenagers to complete the first phase of the expanded Project Imagine program. Five teenagers were in the class.
In the first phase, the teens received strength-based assessments using the Casey Life Skills and Clifton Strengths tools that aim to set youth on their way toward developing healthy, productive lives. The teens also underwent goal-setting exercises.
Deputy City Manager Earl Reynolds encouraged the teens to take what they have learned and strive to meet the goals they set for themselves.
The focus now for the program is on developing relationships with gang-affiliated teens and maintaining those relationships as each teen progresses in meeting the goals they established during this initial phase of the program. One of the City’s youth services and gang violence prevention outreach workers is assigned to mentor each teen in the program for a minimum of one year.
Ten teens were in the first class, which completed their training in early June. Four teens finished the second class in late July.
The teens in Project Imagine are chosen from referrals from the police department, courts, schools and parents.
Project Imagine has received national recognition. In 2020, David was named a winner of the Frederic Milton Thrasher Award by the National Gang Crime Research Center. The award recognizes his accomplishments in gang prevention and intervention.
The program also received the President’s Award from the Virginia Municipal League in October 2019.
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