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The original item was published from 12/14/2018 7:49:49 PM to 1/15/2019 12:00:17 AM.

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Danville, VA Local Government News and Announcements

Posted on: December 14, 2018

[ARCHIVED] City honors first Project Imagine graduates

Project Imagine logo - color

A graduation ceremony was held today for the first Project Imagine class, with the five members receiving certificates for completing a nine-week work readiness program that gives gang-affiliated youth a future off the streets by providing them with a paid work experience and mentoring while on the job.

The teenagers, aged 15 to 18, took part in the first-of-its kind program, which was implemented through a partnership between the City of Danville, Virginia Workforce Center and the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice.

“When I became mayor, I asked that we add one strategic goal to our list,” Mayor Alonzo Jones said at a ceremony held Friday afternoon. “That goal is creating partnerships. Look at what we have done here by working together as partners.”

Jones thanked the Virginia Workforce Center and the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice for serving as partners. He also congratulated the first graduating class.

“You are part of our family now,” Jones said. “We will be here for you as you go forward.”

The program, which is for ages 15 to 21, debuted on Oct. 15. The teenagers in this first class worked jobs within the Public Works and the Parks and Recreation departments.

To supplement their work experience, the youths received training on setting goals, managing money and the availability of classes and additional training programs.

Robert David, gang violence prevention and youth services coordinator for the City of Danville, created the program.

“These five young men started back in October and today is their last day,” David said on Friday. “We want to celebrate the fact, not necessarily they did everything perfect, but while they were in the program there were no new criminal charges filed against these young men, no new gang-related activity noted, and no probation violations or recommitments. So that’s a success. Project Imagine is about changing the mindset and changing the idea of what these individuals can imagine themselves to be.”

David became emotional at the ceremony, saying, “I know there is a lot said about being a man, and I know that is really heavy on the streets and I understand that, but what you guys have done in these last three months is stand up like men. I respect you. To see you not go back to jail, to see you do something positive, it touches me because I believe in the best in you.”

City Manager Ken Larking told the graduates, “We really care about you. We want to see you succeed. You have a lot of cheerleaders backing you in Danville and we want to see every success that you can achieve in life.”

The next Project Imagine class is being set up and will begin in late January or early February. The Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice provides the referrals to the program, which is funded through the Virginia Workforce YES program.

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