Central Falls, Pawtucket launch summer youth programs to promote nonviolence

Blackstone Valley

CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. (WPRI) — As the end of the school year approaches, leaders from two Rhode Island cities came together to announce a new summer program aimed at enhancing youth safety.

City leaders in Central Falls and Pawtucket announced a new nonviolence program and youth opportunities outside of Central Falls High School on Thursday.

“I’m motivated to make sure we are doing all we possibly can for our youth so they feel safe, supported, and productive,” Central Falls Mayor Maria Rivera said. “We need to identify and divert conflicts before they become devastating acts of violence, and direct our youth to positive pathways and opportunities.”

Rivera announced the city is making a new hire to jumpstart the program.

“Our city is hiring a new full-time Nonviolence Outreach Specialist through the Nonviolence Institute who will work directly in our city,” she said.

The Central Falls Nonviolence Outreach Specialist will be an individual who has an intimate knowledge of street conflicts, according to city officials. The full-time position will focus on building important relationships with at-risk youth, spending time in locations where they congregate, and identifying potential risks and paths to nonviolence.

They said the goal is to help children and teens who may be walking on unstable ground and redirect them toward nonviolence, stability and a positive path in life. They will also refer violence-impacted youth and their families to resources in the community.

Pawtucket and Central Falls are partnering with the Nonviolence Institute to launch the seven-week summer program for high-risk youth, where students will receive nonviolence training, resumé-building workshops, career-building opportunities and paid internships.

“Over my years as mayor of Pawtucket, we have a lot of tragedy that we reflected on, and all of them were unnecessary,” Pawtucket Mayor Donald Grebien said. “There are alternatives out there.”

Each participant will spend approximately 30 hours a week in the program, according to organizers.

“This is really an important initiative, cities connecting with each other, providing resources, then availing those resources to our young people who so desperately need an outlet,” Nonviolence Institute Executive Director Cedric Huntley said.

Brown University, the Rhode Island Foundation, and the Partnership for Rhode Island announced a joint contribution of $500,000 to the Nonviolence Institute on Thursday.

As new nonviolence programs and opportunities are rolled out for youth, the Central Falls Police Department said they are ramping up their community engagement work to continue building positive relationships with residents and families.

Central Falls launched centralfallsri.gov/safeyouth for a list of youth opportunities this summer.

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