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A ceremony was held on Wednesday for the second class of teenagers to complete the first phase of the expanded Project Imagine program. Four teenagers were in the class.
In the first phase, the teens received strength-based assessments using the Casey Life Skills and Clifton Strengths tools that aim to set youth on their way toward developing healthy, productive lives. The teens also underwent goal-setting exercises.
“They went through the training and now they know themselves better and have something to build from,” said Robert David, the youth services and gang violence prevention coordinator for the City of Danville.
David said the program teaches things that most people take for granted, and as the teens learn, they develop confidence. Confidence leads to developing self-value and staying off the streets, he said.
Deputy City Manager Earl Reynolds encouraged the teens to take what they have learned and “run toward the goal line.” The training is like the wind, he said.
“You’ve been handed the ball (training) now and all that you have to do is run,” Reynolds said. Don’t get tripped up and don’t stop running until crossing the goal line, he added
Project Imagine gives gang-affiliated teens a future off the streets by providing them with life skills instruction and work readiness training. The program started in 2018 and consisted of a nine-week paid work experience and mentoring while on the job with a partnering agency.
The focus now is on developing relationships with gang-affiliated teens and maintaining those relationships as each teen progresses in meeting the goals they established during this initial phase of the program. One of the City’s three new youth services and gang violence prevention outreach workers is assigned to mentor each teen in the program for a minimum of one year.
Ten teens were in the first class, which completed their training in early June.
The teens in Project Imagine are chosen from referrals from the police department, courts, schools and parents.
Project Imagine has received national recognition. In 2020, David was named a winner of the Frederic Milton Thrasher Award by the National Gang Crime Research Center. The award recognizes his accomplishments in gang prevention and intervention.
The program also received the President’s Award from the Virginia Municipal League in October 2019.