CCPYDC has two central goals:
- Reduce juvenile delinquency and entrance into the criminal justice system.
- To improve outcomes for Cumberland County youth.
Our work is guided by data-driven policies and accomplished through evidence-based initiatives. To achieve our goals, we have outlined three main priorities to focus and drive our work forward. In each of the municipalities served, the programs reflect the needs and priorities highlighted in that community, and members focus on making an impact in those areas.
Keeping youth connected to school and work
Keeping youth connected to school or work is an important strategy to help them stay focused on their future and out of trouble. Through collaborative strategies with local nonprofits, businesses and city officials, as well as consistent communication with schools, CCPYDC deploys a number of programs and activities aimed at school connections and career-readiness. One successful example is CCPYDC’s Cumberland County Custom Career Club (C5), which has helped train and prepare 90 local youth to enter the workforce and even helped a number of youth gain employment in the community.
- Cumberland County Custom Career Club (C5) Curriculum: a series of workshops for workforce readiness taught by local professionals from throughout the County. In 2017, the County Breakout Group created and launched the Cumberland County Custom Career Club (C5) Program. The C5 program consists of local educators teaching local youth workshops to prepare for employment. Workshop topics include; Career Interest & Aptitude Tests; Resume Writing; Resume Editing; References and Applications; Cover Letters and Interview Prep; and Mock Interviews. Since 2017, nearly 100 local youth have completed this program. Many of whom went on to become successfully employed.
- Youth Court: a student-run, non-binding alternative not only to the regular juvenile court, but also the school disciplinary process for youth who have committed low-level, general misconduct offenses at school. Using restorative justice as a participatory tool, youth court students contribute to the well-being of their school and community. Youth Court focuses on accountability and responsibility through the lens of positive youth development. Typically, “punishments” include activities that restore the harm that was caused and encourage the youth offender to take part in an activity that could help them succeeds in the long run. For example, if a youth was caught writing graffiti on a wall, the punishment might be to remove the graffiti and to take part in a week long art class.
Keeping kids safe and engaged in their community
Engaging in positive social activities in the community is one of the most effective ways to combat juvenile delinquency. Throughout the year, CCPYDC hosts and supports various youth-inspired, family-friendly events and service-related activities. One fun and popular example are the county-wide “Play Streets,” which draw hundreds of young residents and families out into the street to play, connect and cool off from summer’s heat in a safe environment. Local law enforcement hosts a site in each city and participates in myriad activities–from volunteering for the dunk tanks to leading new dance moves.
- Play Streets: A program which started in NYC in 1914, Play Streets closes a residential street in an urban area to traffic and opens the space to children residing in the city. These spaces are turned into pop-up parks hosted by CCPYDC Organizations and provide a safe and friendly place for children, youth and families to participate in productive and fun activities.
- Stationhouse Adjustment: In New Jersey, Stationhouse Adjustment (SHA) is an alternative method for police to handle first-time juvenile offenders with minor offenses. SHA provides immediate consequences, such as community service or restitution, while allowing the juvenile to avoid a formal juvenile delinquency record.
- June as Gun Safety and Violence Awareness Month: June is Gun Safety and Violence Awareness Month in Cumberland County. In response to national and local trends of increased gun violence and gun-related crimes, the Cumberland County Positive Youth Development Coalition spearheaded a Gun Safety and Violence Awareness Initiative to draw attention to this wide-spread epidemic and to help decrease gun-related crimes and incidents. In 2016, Cumberland County became the first, and only county in the state, to designate June as Gun Safety and Violence Awareness Month. Eleven of its 14 municipalities, as well as County Freeholders, adopted the resolution. Each year throughout June, CCPYDC and its partner organizations host activities. Each activity is planned to increase awareness of gun safety and violence prevention measures. The primary events sponsored by CCPYDC members include Corner Store Health and Safety Events, Countywide Coffee with A Cop, Gun Safety Social Media Campaign, and Wear Orange Day.
Creating community supports that help youth thrive
The reality is that not all youth have the guidance that they need to make positive choices, develop good habits, and create goals for the future. They are critical life skills that have far-reaching effects and are needed during a critical time in teens’ lives. CCPYDC recognizes that right support can make all the difference. One successful story is at the local PAL where small additions to existing programming has had a big impact on more than 100 local youth who have completed at least one of the four educational trainings.
- PAL Life Skills: The PAL Life Skills idea was born from anecdotal information from the Millville Police Department that a concerning percentage of their PAL youth are also being arrested/getting into trouble. The idea was to add programming to the sporting/recreational activities of the PALs. In the summer of 2018, the Cumberland County PALs with help from community resources started to implement a variety of life skills. These life skills include; Safe Dating and Healthy Relationships, Job Readiness, Financial Literacy, and Life after High School.
- Barbershop Books: Barbershop Books is a community-based program that creates child-friendly reading spaces in barbershops and provides early literacy training to barbers across America. Currently, Cumberland County has over 5 participating barbershops.
- Summer Feeding Program: The USDA 2015 Summer Food Service Program has been significantly expanded in Cumberland County as a result of the efforts of the Cumberland County Positive Youth Development Coalition. The Program is aimed at providing the community with an ample supply of food and meals thought the summer.
- Realities of Technologies Campaign: CCPYDC has worked with members from local high schools to put together a campaign focused on the dangers of technological advances. This campaign consists of a PSA explaining the dangers of sexting. As well as a social media resource guide to educate parents on commonly used social media applications and texting language.