Eugene Young with Delaware Elite players.

Safe and Secure After School

Community-Based Solutions to Help Wilmington’s Young People

Wilmington — our home — is losing an entire generation to the trauma of gun violence. Too many children are not allowed to play outside after dinner because too many families have been torn apart by a bullet from a gun. And according to the Centers for Disease Control study of gun violence in Wilmington, men under the age of 25 are far more likely to become the victims of violent crime, or to engage in violent crime, than any other group in this city.

I believe that we need ambitious solutions now more than ever to give our young people the support and resources they so badly need.

This past week, I released my plan to help support our youth and build stronger communities throughout Wilmington. But I would like to provide you with a little more detail on the initiatives I will pursue as mayor to keep our youth safe and secure after school.

I am committed to keeping our youth safe and secure after school because I’ve spent my entire professional life advocating for our youth. At the Delaware Center for Justice, I have advocated for troubled youth who just want a second chance to turn their lives around. And through my non-profit, Delaware Elite, we help to provide teenagers with a safe place to realize their full potential as both students and athletes.

Delaware Elite players receiving their Senior Award at the 2nd Annual Breakfast of Champions (Good Friday, Mar 29, 2013)

Through all these experiences, one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that the best solutions are also the most engaging solutions: they engage young people by challenging them to overcome the obstacles they face in life, whatever those may be — they engage parents and grandparents who can help to identify the unique needs facing their children — they engage professionals who help youth deal with trauma — they engage community partners who can help to design programming that reflects the resources available within their neighborhoods — and they engage local businesses that want to see ambitious young men and women applying for summer jobs.

Supporting our community centers is just one part of my plan to keep our youth safe and secure after school.

I’ve also learned that government must act as a facilitator to help tackle the problems facing our youth. Government has the resources to act as the single most important catalyst that can bring together community-based partners who are deeply committed to building a future for our children that is better than our own.

With help from parents, the community and business partners, I will put a community-based program in place to keep our kids safe and secure once school lets out each day and during the summer breaks.

These are the main principles of what I am proposing:

  • Bring greater investment to our community centers
  • Add a significant academic enrichment piece to the city’s summer youth employment program
  • Expand employment and internship opportunities for low-income youth by collaborating with businesses and nonprofits
  • Fund programs through a combination of public and private organizations
  • Seek community-led youth mentorship programs
  • Advocate for increased funding from state and federal government agencies and grant-making organizations
Supporting Young People — Eugene Young for Mayor.

Sustainable community-based youth programming requires safe spaces within our communities that will be open rain or shine. As Mayor, I will pursue an ambitious agenda to re-open shuttered community centers and to help provide additional funding for existing community centers.

I’ve been told by city leaders that this will be too expensive. “The budget is just too tight,” I’ve been told, “and there are no additional funds for community centers.”

There can be little doubt that this is going to be difficult, but there is no justifiable reason why young people should be the ones to bear the brunt of budget cuts when they are most at risk.

Bancroft Elementary student with books provided by My Very Own Library.

I will help to fund our community centers through the same process that I pursued to help bring the My Very Own Library program to Wilmington. Working with nonprofits and the private sector, we raised over $500,000 over two years to provide 3,000 elementary school students with ten free books of their choice. This was one of the single largest initiatives to promote literacy in our city, and we did it through partnerships and collaborations. We can do the same to help support our community centers.

Supporting our community centers is just one part of my plan to keep our youth safe and secure after school.

As Mayor, I will work with the state government to support more and expanded after-school and summer programs and services. The low-income student achievement gap widens when these young people do not have access to academic enrichment programs, in particular during the summer months. I will advocate for our youth in Dover to ensure that our youth have access to the same opportunities as everyone else.

But one of the most important things we can do is help teenagers find employment that will help support their academic achievement and teach them soft skills such as teamwork and communication. As a young man 20 years ago, I enrolled in a summer workforce development program here in Wilmington that set me up with an internship at Skadden Arps. This changed the direction of my life.

Wilmington needs more programs like this, and I will work with Wilmington’s incredible business community to offer more youth internships and summer jobs.

What I’ve just outlined is the most ambitious agenda for supporting our young people in a generation, and I think that every last piece of it is achievable.

You can read more about my plans at our campaign website or at our campaign blog.

Together we can find a way to ensure that no child ever feels they do not have a safe place to go after school because to move Wilmington forward tomorrow, we need to invest in our youth today.

Eugene Young is the Advocacy Director at Delaware Center for Justice and candidate for Mayor of Wilmington.