Youth Focused Community Service in Harlem

I thought I would share this great community service event from our partners in Harlem. From Project Director Chris Watler:

"Hard H.A.T.S (Helping Adolescents Think Strategically) is a youth leadership program that promotes youth service and civic engagement. Under the leadership of Ivan Deadrick, one of my deputies responsible for youth programs, and our Youth Justice Project staff, Rachel Davidson, Elizabeth Garcia and Damon Dobbs-Brown, Hard H.A.T.S members investigate critical issues impacting youth and the community, and develop service projects to address those issues. The service projects attract other youth volunteers, but also engage mandated youth from our court programs who must perform community service.

This past MLK Day Harlem Hard H.A.T.S joined a coalition of other youth organizations convened by Children for Children to organize a mass service event attracting hundreds of youth and adults at P.S 57 in East Harlem. There were many service booths at the event where youth leaders provided opportunities for children to do service projects (my son and his friend enjoyed the table where kids could make little stuffed socks with cat nip and cotton as toys for cats in shelters). Hard H.A.T.S youth organized a letter writing booth on the issue of school violence at the event.

Leading up to the event, Hard H.A.T.S youth investigated the issue of school violence. They discussed how the issue affects themselves and other youth they know. After identifying people whom they felt could make the most impact with regards to the issue (besides themselves of course!), they drafted a form letter that could be sent to key education and political leaders. The letter suggested that leaders look to support conflict resolution programs in schools as a cost effective approach for dealing with violence.

Youth and adult visitors to the booth learned about the issue from Hard H.A.T.S members. Large graphs demonstrating the increase in suspension rates in NYC schools and the increased use of metal detectors and cost for security were on display. Visitors could choose to sign one of the form letters or write their own letter on school violence prevention. Hard H.A.T.S members were on hand to assist children with their letters. Throughout the day youth spoke with over 100 community members and collected 60 letters!

The MLK Project served as a kick-off to the 'Semester of Service,' an initiative sponsored by Youth Service America and the Corporation for National and Community Service."