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The Board of Alders on Tuesday unanimously approved a $125,000 state grant that will fund another semester of the Career Pathways Eli Whitney Afterschool Program — a vocational training program that began in 2014 as part of the city’s effort to reduce teen

Up to 45 students a semester can earn high school credit and professional credentials through the after-school program. The Justice Education Center (JEC) — which aims to “prevent and reduce crime and violence, improve public safety, strengthen local communities and offer young people essential opportunities,” according to the organization’s website — administers the program with funding from the Connecticut Department of Education. The organization’s website also touts impressive stats from the New Haven-specific program, which indicate positive behavioral changes and improvements in academic performance among participants.

“You guys aren’t just normal high school students because you have people who cared enough about you to provide with you this education and the skills you need in the real world,” U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut John Durham told the program’s 2018 graduates. “You are leaving this program with an ability to get a job. In that way, you are truly accomplished and lucky.”

In the second year of the program, JEC reported that over half of participants improved their reading grades and attendance and nearly half improved in math. Nearly all students agreed that their experience with the program helped them find employment. When the JEC followed up with the 103 students who participated across the 2015–16 and 2016–17 school years, nearly half were employed and all but four of the remaining students were still in school.

The New Haven Independent reported at the program’s inception that Jason Bartlett, who was then the city’s youth services director, said that job employment was the most important crime reduction tactic. Bartlett characterized at-risk youth as “over-age and under-credited,” meaning that a program that requires them to finish school and earn professional certification solves some of the key problems surrounding youth violence.

In 2016, 10 students from the program furthered the program’s mission by spending five weeks helping construct the Escape Teen Center — a city-run “safe and open space that serves as an anchor for teens and young adults.” Several of these students told the New Haven Independent that the program gave them invaluable skills and made them feel as though they were already in the trade.

“The skills I know now, I wouldn’t without the Eli program,” Wilbur Cross graduate Angell Santana said. Santana studied plumbing through the program during his last year of school.

In addition to the after-school program in Eli Whitney, the JEC also operates an in-school program in Hillhouse High School in New Haven. Hillhouse’s Learning Corridor program is made possible by Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) and Laborers Local 455, which has provided curriculum for 200 hours of technical training, pre-apprenticeship opportunities and “a direct pipeline to no-cost apprenticeship training opportunities.”

The Justice Education Center was founded in 1976. The JEC also operates an in-school program in Bridgeport.

Mackenzie Hawkins |

Mackenzie is the editor in chief and president of the Managing Board of 2022. She previously covered City Hall for the News, including the 2019 mayoral race and New Haven's early pandemic response. Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, she is a junior in Trumbull College studying ethics, politics and economics.