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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Youth Intervention Program Opens Minds

By Orleny Rojas, Rescource Coordinator

On July 9th Bronx Community Solutions held its first Youth Impact Panel class. The class is part of the Youth Intervention Program (Y.I.P.) created to target youth between the ages of 16 to 21 with previous criminal court cases. The purpose of the program is to offer an alternative to incarceration, to connect the youth with services, and to offer decision making and consequential thinking while providing a forum to evaluate their actions and to express their views. The class is geared toward self-review and expression, and offers education on the responsibilities they have to their communities, families and themselves. Participants are given the opportunity to discuss their arrest through the many lenses and systems that interact within their lives. In the last eight weeks, we have seen the class grow from two participants to a steady five to nine.

The structure of the group is so that one of our Americorp interns leads the discussion with a staff member as a moderator. Through this dynamic, we have elicited an interesting interplay. The participants have found a voice and a sound board to express their views, but more than that, for the first time they are given a different perspective and point of view which has at times led to the begrudging concession of their one sided viewpoints. The information the class disseminates has allowed them to see and consider different points of views and the complex issues on both sides of the argument. It is particularly insightful, when participants offer the other point of view. One example is when the class discussion centers on Police relations and incidents that take place during the arrest process.

In the last month powerlessness and the strained relationship with the police were topics brought forth in every class. There is a general sense of frustration shared among the program participants when claims of police harassment come up. The participants share disclosures of similar experiences and the group leaders try to tie that into the impact criminal behavior has on their communities. In specific, how their actions can contribute towards the stereotypes and negative perceptions of youth. So far, there have been times when the group dynamic is not conducive towards insight and acceptance of their roles in their arrest. However, last week the group was candid and recognized that certain behaviors on their part led to their arrest and involvement with the criminal court system. At the end of the session every single one of the youth shook my hand and thanked me for listening. We are planting the seeds and offering the resources that create opportunities and options they did not have or could not access before.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Project A.C.T. - "We Hit the Jackpot"

By T.K. Singleton Community Initiatives Coordinator

"Mommy look! we hit the jackpot!" - a local Hunts Point boy yelled (viewing an inflatable bowncy house) as he walked down Whitlock Avenue and 165th Street.

The Bronx is the birthplace of international culture, but you wouldn't know it by walking through this corridor of Longwood/Hunts Point. These murals are as important to the business owners in the area as they are to the residents of the community. A community, by definition generates its own content, its own style and culture. It’s all by the people, for the people and that‘s the motivation for the project.
For me, "We hit the Jackpot" is the summary of last Saturday's event! The community came out and celebrated the viewing of the recently installed murals by DYM, GFR and the "Legendary Mural Kings" TAT's Crew. Each Block had a feeling of pride and culture. I spoke to a parent said that " Whitlock used to so dark and scary, I would get off at Hunt pt. train station and walk... Now Im getting off at Whitlock" Project A.C.T. (Artist Coming Together) not only changes the overall look of the community, it change the perception of the residents, business owners and even MTA workers(who have been working tirelessly to complete the new Whitlock avenue train station). The Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr was talking to his father( State Senator Reverend Ruben Diaz, Sr) about the project he told his father "this is the Type of Graffiti we promote"- explaining the difference between Murals and Bombing. As the day progressed, We had yet another visitor Assemblyman Marcos Crespo who was in awe of the different type of Murals.
The day was filled with music, food and art- everyone who attended (both young and old, Artists and Business owners, BCS and Police) left will a feeling of accomplishment and contentment that an idea was put into A.C.T.ion

Friday, September 17, 2010

Times Square Inc. Graduation Ceremony Inspires

Angel Hernandez, Gradute of the Year

On Wednesday night this week, Midtown Community Court, another CCI project, hosted a star-studded affair for recent graduates of Times Square Ink who are now employed. In spite of the rough economy, TSI has been tremendously successful this year having placed over 70 graduates in employment, more than half of our graduates.

Highlights of the evening included the keynote address by District Attorney Cy Vance and remarks from John Jay College President Jeremy Travis. We premiered a short film that was produced in collaboration with John Jay about a recent TSI graduate. We also honored our Volunteer of the Year, and most importantly, recognized our Graduate of the Year, Angel Hernandez.

Angel's story is remarkable. He was released from prison a little over a year ago. After completing TSI and continuing to work with the staff, as well as going through many ups and downs in his job search, he was hired by a Manhattan sports club. In the last few months he has risen through the ranks to the position of Facility Manager -- he now manages 18 employees! In fact, Angel recently hired another TSI grad who was also recognized at the event.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

An Example of BCS Success.

By Melissa Novock, STARS Case Manager

 "You never gave up on me, and that made me not give up on myself."

Those were the words of one of the BCS clients involved in the STARS initiative. She futher expressed, " I don't have the urge to get high, instead, I want to explore all of the new opportunities before me."
This client, Ms. Smith received a social service mandate several months ago. She never made it to her first appointment at Success Counseling. However, in August, Ms. Smith was picked up on a warrant and brought before Judge Eugene Oliver. Judge Oliver asked if BCS would be willing to work with Ms. Jones again, and the answer was absolutely, yes.

Ms. Smith expressed a great deal of determination to finish her mandate while in court and promised she would do the work this time. She not only completed her mandate, she also took a courageous step in working on some of her own personal goals. Ms. Smith completed the detox/rehab program at Conifer Park and to this day she continues to work with Success Counseling and BCS.

Ms. Smith came into the BCS clinic on two occasions last week to share her joy in completing the rehab program and to express her appreciation and gratitude to BCS.

Being grateful for her past experiences and relying not only on her connections to BCS but also her faith within, She will definitely continue working towards accomplishing her goals.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Celebrities Sentenced to Community Service Too

The below New York Times article discusses the community service work that defendants perform as part of their alternative sentences.  Community Service sentence hold the defendant accountable for their actions, at the same time that is improves neighborhoods and communities. Click the title below for the full article.

In Community Service, Celebrity Justice Means the Same Dirty Work


Published: September 1, 2010

Caroline Giuliani’s court-ordered punishment is likely to be the same kind of humiliating, laborious job that tens of thousands of others are assigned each year.