Wilmington’s mayor briefly outlined his $1 million plan to give the city’s kids summer jobs while speaking Saturday at a local YMCA.
Providing summer jobs is key to solving the city’s violence problem – which has resulted in three homicides since Jan. 23 – Mayor Dennis P. Williams told about 75 people at the Walnut Street YMCA’s Black Achievers Program.
“If I get a million dollars, I guarantee I can put 1,000 kids to work,” Williams said.
To pay for the jobs, Williams said he plans to ask for $300,000 in the city’s budget, $250,000 from the private sector and $500,000 from the state, up from $300,000 last year, for a grand total of $1.05 million. Kids in the program, he added, would be employed from June through October.
“If you want to help Wilmington, you’ve got to put people to work.,” the mayor said.
The summer jobs program could provide opportunities in several banks, as well as city departments such as finance, the police department, the fire department and the mayor’s office.
Williams also hinted at making a proposal next week to cope with the mental health part of the city’s violence problem. That plan, which he said will cost about $1.7 million, will include, in part, about a dozen youth interventionists, expanding the city’s Cure Violence “interrupters” program and putting additional resources into health and human services.
“People are gonna run under the table when I put that out there,” he said, “but it’s things we need.”
When asked if they knew someone who had been shot, seven of the children raised their hands. And when asked if they’d heard gossip about recent shootings, six of the children put their hands up.
Allen emphasized that kids in the Black Achievers program can prevent more violence, as the city needs “credible messengers,” or people who are able to reach out to the perpetrators of violence and convince them to ease up. Police, he added, don’t always have the relationships to accomplish that.
“We need individuals,” Allen said, “that are able to go in because their relationships and say, ‘Listen it’s time for y’all to put these guns down.’ And I believe that when we talk about that, you guys sitting here are credible messengers.”
The Black Achievers Program pairs middle and high school students with successful adults to help provide the young people with mentoring and a role model. Since 1989, the Walnut Street YMCA has hosted the program, pairing more than 2,000 young people with 625 adults.
One of those young people said Saturday’s program was inspirational, even though the kids didn’t know the public officials would be there until they arrived.
“When you have a person with power talk about how you have power, that’s empowering,” said C.J. Coe, 16, the program’s chaplain. “… That builds your self esteem and motivates to do more change and work in the community.”
Wilmington Police Chief Bobby Cummings and Wilmington City Councilwoman Hanifa Shabazz also spoke at Saturday’s event.