Youth program comes Just(ice) In Time

 

Delaware State Police Sgt. John “Wes” Barnett Jr. (left) and Chief Marvin Mailey of the Dover Police Department (right) sneaked into the gymnasium to greet the children at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Dover on Tuesday morning. The club will host the Just(ice) In Time program on Saturday which teaches violence prevention solutions. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

DOVER — A violence prevention program titled “Just(ice) In Time for Teenagers & Young Adult Males of Color” is aimed at helping individuals become armed with knowledge about each other, rather than weapons.

Tyrone Perry, coordinator of Just(ice) In Time, hopes to attract more than 70 youth participants to the program at the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Dover, located at 1683 New Burton Road, on Saturday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

Just(ice) In Time’s goal is to address and lessen potentially escalating situations between young people and law enforcement through active role play and open dialogue about real-life experiences.

In advance of Just(ice) In Time, the Boys & Girls Club will be hosting a program called “Train the Trainer” for Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware staff, law enforcement and community stakeholders on Thursday from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m.

Those who receive the training can then take part in the Just(ice) In Time program with the minority youth on Saturday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.

“Too often we see on the national news and, as recently as last week in our local news, senseless loss of life involving young people and law enforcement,” Mr. Perry said. “Justice In Time and Justice In Time training is a life skill and potentially life-saving training program designed to educate young people about their legal rights and arm them with intervention strategies so they may positively interact with law enforcement.”

Just(ice) In Time officials say the program is important to try to get minority youth and law enforcement together on the same page as it seems too often lately that they are not.

Everybody learns

Tyrone Perry, coordinator for Just(ice) In Time, talks about the violence prevention program at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Dover on Tuesday morning. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

It won’t just be the young people who will be learning during the program, according to Mr. Perry.

Members of law enforcement will also be able to recognize and better understand the social and cultural differences and perceptions both in and out of the communities they serve, which will assist them in bridging the so-called “community divide.”

Youth workers and community stakeholders will learn the potential impact, risk and liability associated with certain behavior and situations and how to apply effective behavior to bring about positive change within their communities.

All of the program’s participants will learn and develop agreed upon, workable violence prevention solutions.

During the program and the course of the interaction between the trainers and the youth, trainers will take on roles as bad guys and youth take over the roles of officers in role-playing.

“The most important thing to me after that training is over is to have the dialogue continue, with the kids and their parents,” said Delaware State Police Sgt. John “Wes” Barnett Jr. “Interactive training is very, very important.”

Program a natural fit
for Boys & Girls Club

Jacob Getty Jr., the director of the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Dover, said the program appears to be a natural fit for his organization.

“Violence here in the state of Delaware, especially youth violence across our state, is at an all-time high,” Mr. Getty said. “Our children are faced with circumstances in their neighborhoods that as youth professionals we are tirelessly working to address.

“The Boys & Girls Club of Delaware plays a really important role with prevention, intervention and education when it comes to these issues.”

The Boys & Girls Club of Delaware serves more than 30,000 youth at 43 locations throughout the state, so it has a vast pool of potential participants.

Chris Basher, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Delaware, said the clubs engage more than 3,400 youth in Delaware every day during the week.

“Justice In Time is not just about having teens and young adults become positive role models,” said Chris Basher, CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Delaware. “It’s about providing opportunities to eliminate the profound difference in their communities — to take a leadership role to help change dangerous and destructive stereotypes by bringing people together and developing rare understanding and appreciation for one another.

“They have the power to affect real change in their communities.”

Dover supports
program’s ideas

Newly named Dover Police Chief Marvin Mailey Jr. said he attended a Just(ice) In Time program in Seaford and was impressed by what he saw.

He said it helps provide an open line of communication between the officers and the community in which they serve.

“You see so many kids involved in crime and doing things kids shouldn’t be doing,” he said. “Kids should be learning, playing and having fun. They should be learning with discipline, they shouldn’t be beginning their lives surrounded by violence.

“We want them to have positive interactions with police officers. We don’t want them to fear us. They hear enough stories of bad police action. They watch social media and television and read the newspaper and they are inundated with ‘Police officer shoots young black kid,’ or ‘Police officer shoots young white kid.’ So we want them to see who we really are.”

Dover Mayor Robin Christiansen said it is a very difficult time for many children in society.

“Today, because of the situation where we have (many) broken homes and families, our children are on autopilot and are forced to take care of themselves,” the mayor said. “They handle situations in a more dangerous way and sometimes are a threat.”

Mayor Christiansen added that programs such as Just(ice) In Time are a step in the right direction in starting a conversation between law enforcement and youth.

Just having that conversation is a start, Mr. Perry said.

The cornerstone of the adult training is the development of the “Youth Street Team,” which is responsible for identifying and recruiting peer-to-peer training participants, hoping to create a ripple effect in educating, understanding and community support.

“We are seeking young leaders who are self-motivated,” Mr. Perry said. “The day will be spent training them on the work they need to do in order to bring similar events back to their community. To us, that’s the most important thing.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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