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DC Agencies Take Fresh Approach to Helping Teens This Summer

Thursday, July 31, 2003

(Washington, DC) More than a dozen District government agencies are linking their resources to mentor 11 Ward 1 youth (ages 14-17) to provide alternatives to destructive behavior, better prepare them to be productive adults and increase their sense of community. By creating the Core Team Youth Employment Supervisors Program, with the Department of Mental Health as the lead agency, human services, public safety and infrastructure agencies are integrating their assets to reverse the increase in youth-related violence, vandalism and destruction of public property in Ward 1.

All the young people are part of the Passport to Work Summer Youth Employment Program sponsored by Mayor Anthony A. Williams and the Department of Employment Services.

Participating agencies include the Departments of Human Services, Health, Parks and Recreation, Public Works, and Consumer and Regulatory Affairs; Metropolitan Police Department; Office of the Corporation Counsel; and Neighborhood Services and Customer Service Operations. The program runs from July 7 to August 8.

"Children and youth are experiencing unprecedented turmoil in their lives: unstable family life; easy access to illegal drugs; frequent truancy; and unsuitable role models," said DMH Director Martha B. Knisley. "During the school year, we have achieved some success in working with students whose behavioral problems put them at risk of not realizing their full potential. We want to expose them to the world of real life and real work, and we want to equip them with the tools necessary to face today's challenges as well as those they'll encounter as adults.

DMH Youth Mentering Program

Of course, if any of them choose public service as a career goal because of this program, we'll know the program is successful."

The students are working directly with representatives from the Neighborhood Services Core Team. Three days a week they accompany a core team representative to observe that employee's tasks and responsibilities. The students participate in Neighborhood Service Core Team meetings and special "junior" core team meetings with Neighborhood Services staff. They also meet the directors of the participating DC government agencies and hear about their experiences. The junior core team emulates the team building, strategic thinking and cooperative, holistic approach to problem solving that characterizes how Neighborhood Services' works. Fridays are for field trips related to public administration.

Among the skills to be developed during the program are anger management, money management, communication and life planning.

The youth were chosen because of high risk of:

  • School behavioral problems but not yet involved in the court system.
  • Suspension from school, failing in their studies or exhibiting anti-social behavior.
  • Unstable home lives because they do not live with their parents, live in group homes or with relatives, or running away from home frequently.
  • Gang activities.