A group of nonprofit agency representatives spent two hours Wednesday afternoon discussing how best to connect disadvantaged young people and adults with employment.
That meeting, one of four that took place on the University of North Carolina Wilmington campus Wednesday, represented the next step in the Wilmington community’s effort to combat youth violence. The four committees, each facilitated by a UNCW staff member and each focusing on one aspect of the problem, identified resources and discussed possible strategies to incorporate into an overall action plan.
The committee meetings built on recommendations developed by the City of Wilmington, working from input gathered at a series of community forums on youth violence held earlier this year.
In a two-hour timeframe, each committee was asked to identify what is already being done in the community to support recommendations in their area and what is not. Where new initiatives are needed, the committees were to propose organizations and individuals to address those gaps, and then develop a timeline and communication plan for marshaling existing and new resources to achieve goals in their area.
Committees and their facilitators were:
Education: Donyell Roseboro, director of the professional development system in UNCW’s Watson College of Education
Prevention and intervention: Stephanie Smith, director of the Office of Community Engagement in UNCW’s College of Health and Human Services
Jobs: Natasha Davis, executive director of UNCW’s Quality Enhancement for Nonprofit Organizations (QENO) Center
and Law enforcement: Tom Barth, professor and coordinator of the Strategic Management Academy in UNCW’s Department of Public and International Affairs
The jobs committee compiled a list of agencies and programs that help disadvantaged young people and adults prepare for employment and then actually find a job.
Participants noted the importance for disadvantaged teens and ex-felons to have work experience that helps them develop marketable skills and also demonstrate their reliability and work ethic.
The group agreed that programs that provide training and employment connections need to do a better job of communicating to their target populations and among each other.
Suggested solutions were both high-tech and low-tech. While stressing the need for a comprehensive website with links to all relevant programs, committee members agreed there is no substitute for one-to-one communications efforts that include door-to-door efforts that build trust relationships in target neighborhoods.
Better communications among similar agencies could lead also to more collaborations and reduced duplication of services, the committee members said.
Discussion participants said they found the meeting valuable because it gave them a rare opportunity to talk with colleagues and learn about complementary programs. And they apparently weren’t alone.
“Everyone is saying the same thing: how can we share information?” said Jenni Harris, assistant to the chancellor for community partnerships, after visiting all four committee meetings.
Meanwhile, Wilmington's Blue Ribbon Commission on the Prevention of Youth Violence (BRC) plans to launch its updated 2014 strategic plan at a special event next Tuesday.
According to a news release from the BRC, "Speakers will chart the organization’s progress in the past year since it became an independent nonprofit and highlight new initiatives to address issues that contribute to youth violence in our community."
District attorney Ben David and Wilmington mayor Bill Saffo are among the featured speakers at the event, to be held at PPD.