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A graduation ceremony was held today for the third Project Imagine class, with the four 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 Danville Redevelopment and Housing Authority and a local auto detail shop provided jobs for the youths.
Robert David, the gang violence prevention and youth services coordinator for the City of Danville, commended them for completing the program.
“This is a courageous step,” David said. “A lot of times, we minimize what it takes for these young men to step out at the risk of failure and to step out at the risk of going against friends and some associations.”
He continued, saying, “But it is more than that. Project Imagine is not only an opportunity for these young men to find themselves, but to find out what life is about and how to transition from whatever situation they were in and the mistakes they had made to where they can imagine a better place.”
David said Project Imagine is not just a work program, but also a program that builds relationships.
“Yes, they work, but the work is not it. It is about making the connection, relationships, mentoring, and finding out that you are capable of doing something greater than what you thought you could do. That inner strength will carry you through the rest of your life.”
David told the graduates that he would continue to serve as a resource for them by providing advice and providing leads on jobs.
To supplement the work experience provided, the youths received training on managing money and the availability of classes and additional training programs.
David thanked Danville Community College, Telamon Corp., Valley Star Credit Union, and Danville Social Services for presenting programs and providing resources.
The program is a partnership between the City of Danville, Virginia Workforce Center, and the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice. Two months ago, the Virginia Municipal League named Project Imagine as the winner of its President’s Award, which is the top award for innovative solutions by a local government.
As with the first two graduating classes, David said success is in the fact that while the youths did not necessarily do everything perfectly during the program, there were no new criminal charges filed against these youths, no new gang-related activity noted, and no probation violations or recommitments.
City Manager Ken Larking presented the graduation certificates.