Three Hartford lawmakers and youth from the Blue Hills Civic Association and Hartford Areas Rally Together stood in the Bowles Park neighborhood Monday to announce the release of a $150,000 state grant.
The grant will be used to help more than 50 youth identify and solve problems in the community.
Rep. Ken Green, D-Hartford, said this will encourage young people to be leaders and take an active role in the community. He said many times adults talk about youth problems, but “we don’t involve young people in the discussions.” He said young people are capable of solving these problems.
What are the problems?
Vanessa Machin, 15, said one out of every three youth in Hartford lacks the skills it takes to land a job. In order to tackle this problem a group of 12 youth, including Machin, used their community organizing skills to influence city politicians and school board members that have the power to expand job readiness programs throughout the city.
“It is very important for young people to have the necessary tools that will help develop their skills,” Rep. Doug McCrory, D-Hartford, said. “It is also important to provide job opportunities which will prepare them to maintain future employment in their adult life.”
The $150,000 grant will help them to continue with their efforts at organizing around this issue, Mayra Esquilin, president of H.A.R.T. said.
The youth are “shining examples of the city’s potential,” Esquilin said.
And Hartford’s youth are just beginning to understand how influential their young voices can be.
“The voice of youth is stronger than ever before,” Machin said. She said she knows this because the group she worked with at H.A.R.T. was able to set up meetings with the mayor and other politicians to talk about the youth agenda.
Rep. Art Feltman, D-Hartford, said what’s unique about this grant is that kids from the Northend will be working with kids from the Southend. The collaboration between the two neighborhood groups includes money for anti-violence initiatives.
When asked if they thought there may be turf wars between different groups of city youth, the youth who attended the press conference Monday said they didn’t think it would be a problem.
“What’s good for one part of our town is good for another,” Feltman said.
Green said when young people take the lead and begin to work together they have the power to positively influence the youth who may feel disconnected from the community.
Feltman said when there’s a lack of discipline in a youth’s life, that’s when the gangs move in to provide the structure. He said when the youth write the rules for their own neighborhood, it’s a big deterrent to gangs.
The $150,000 was allocated in last year’s state budget.
For information on how to participate in this program please call the Blue Hills Civic Association at 769-3848 or H.A.R.T. at 525-3449.