Elm City unveils youth policy

New Haven officials have begun implementing new policies that aim to improve academic performance and create new opportunities for the city’s public school students.

Under the plan, six of the city’s new schools will be designated as “Open Schools,” providing opportunities for both tutoring and recreation, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said in his seventh inaugural speech last week. The new measures will also include plans to expand summer employment for the young and a new “Mentor New Haven” program to recruit volunteers for the Open Schools, he said.

DeStefano said in the speech that he hopes New Haven residents will play an active role in the new initiatives.

“I call on each of you to join me in dedicating ourselves wholeheartedly to a greater challenge — a challenge to make New Haven the most nurturing, supportive and caring environment for our youth,” he said.

New Haven Director of Public Information Derek Slap said city officials believe the new policy will improve the efficiency of city spending on youth activities, but he also said not all the answers lie within City Hall.

“Parents are a big part of it,” he said. “Not every problem is a problem the city government must fix. We’re asking for community help.”

Ward 28 Alderwoman Babz Rawls-Ivy said she is pleased with the new initiatives, but thinks that more work is needed to solve the problem.

“I think it’s just in line with what the Board of Aldermen had in mind when we started working on our proposal,” she said. “It’s not a solution to all things regarding youth issues, but it is a very broad-based approach to start getting people talking about it.”

Still, some city education officials welcomed the new policies.

New Haven Academy Facilitator Gregory Baldwin said he thinks DeStefano’s focus on student employment in particular is a significant step.

“Employment is a major interest and concern both in terms of giving [youths] something productive to do and making them responsible adults,” he said.

Michael Morand, Yale’s associate vice president for New Haven and State Affairs, also expressed his satisfaction with the new measures and said he hopes the University can work together with city officials to support the programs.

“Yale is enthusiastic and applauds the effort by the mayor and the Board of Aldermen to develop and implement a new city youth initiative,” Morand said. “The University currently has many youth initiatives which we would look forward to integrating with other such efforts in the community.”

Morand said Yale plans to open a new “learning center” in the Dixwell community this year.

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