Lt. Governor Anthony Brown and the United Way of the National Capital Area announced on Tuesday that they have issued a $100,000 grant ($50,000 from the state and $50,000 from the United Way) to Prince George’s County for a pilot program to prevent gang violence in PG County schools. This one-year pilot program grant targets two schools in particular: Benjamin Stoddert and Thurgood Marshall middle schools. The program is called Way to P.E.A.C.E. [prevention, education, awareness, connection and empowerment]. From The Daily Record:
Way to P.E.A.C.E will be tested at Benjamin Stoddert and Thurgood Marshall middle schools. The schools are considered two of the lowest-performing schools in the southern part of the county and have a high incidence of gang activity, said state officials…
The initiative will focus on more than just the two schools. Youth, religious and media organizations that produce videos related to youth issues have become partners in the program. The sponsors hope to draw on the experience of these groups to add to the program.
“United Way does not know the solutions,” said Bill Hanbury, president of the United Way of the National Capital Area. “These community partners know the solutions. This grant is going to enable these organizations to continue the great work that they are already doing in these areas and allow it to be expanded to reach more areas.”
If the program does well during its first year, the state might consider extending it to other schools across the county.
“We’re going to monitor it, we’re going to evaluate it,” Brown said. “Once we prove that this program is effective, then the goal is to introduce this to communities not only in the county but the entire state of Maryland.”
The county has 1,800 members representing 250 gang-related groups, according to a Prince George’s County Youth and Gang Violence Task Force report.
United Way will lead the project along with several community partners. Current partners include, but are not limited to the following: Community of Hope AME Church, Step into the Light Ministries, Dreams Work Inc., and Circle of Hope.
Examples of the types of programming the grants will fund include:
• Community of Hope AME Church’s “After-School and Community Programming” which engages students in projects in film, technology, music, construction and entrepreneurship.
• Step Into The Light Ministries’ “Crossing Jordan Group Home/Foster Care Empowerment Program” featuring a 10-week coaching/wellness curriculum for girls ages 9-17 living in three group homes/foster programs in the County.
• Circle of Hope’s Videography Training Program.
While many of these partners are already working on these issues, collectively under the Way to P.E.A.C.E. initiative, the grant will enable them to reach more at risk youth with their efforts.
United Way NCA launched the first phase of the program in March, in conjunction with Dreams Work Inc., with the release of a video film project called “Strings Dream” under the Don’t Bully…B.U.L.L.Y (Be You, Learn to Love Yourself) campaign. This year, the film will be screened to 80,000 middle school and high school youth in the metro region and many more virally, with members of the all student cast holding panel discussions on preventive and intervention actions that can be taken to address bullying.
While formal goals and performance measures are still being defined by Way to P.E.A.C.E., United Way NCA expects that the program will show a decrease in absenteeism, as well as in bullying incidents and violence, and that it will show an increase in graduation rates.