130 elected officials, city and school department heads, clergy members, grassroots community leaders and parents attended The City of Mount Vernon Youth Bureau’s Mount Vernon Community That Cares (MVCTC) Key leader Orientation on Friday September 23rd at the Elks lodge. The MVCTC is comprised of community stakeholders who have been active for over 8 years in developing and implementing programs to reduce crime and alcohol substance use amongst youth. Attendees included NYS Assemblyman Gary Pretlow; Mount Vernon City Council President Karen Watts, City Council members Roberta Apuzzo and Yuhanna Edwards; former Mayor Ernie Davis and Mount Vernon Police Commissioner Carl Bell. Claudette Coote, the MVTC Coalition Coordinator and Michelle Gordon, the Coalition’s Co-chair worked with community partners to organize this well attended event.
Dr. Julie Dostal and Executive Director of the Youth Bureau, DaMia Harris presented on the coalition’s goals, objectives and past activities. “Our interest is to expand and at the very least, sustain the work of the Bureau and the MVCTC. The reduction of risk factors begins with community stakeholders and as funding diminishes, grassroots involvement must increase,” stated DaMia Harris. “Our hope is that the enthusiasm and dedication continues so that our community is strengthened.”
Over 60 Community Based Organizations also supported this event. Representatives which included but were not limited to the Boys and Girls Club; the Westchester County Departments of Health, Social Services and Probation; Family Ties; Grace Baptist Freedom School; Mount Vernon Neighborhood Health Center; Westcop; Westhelp; Westhab gathered to discuss ways in which the city can increase the protective factors within the community. Mayor Clinton I. Young Jr., stated, “The City of Mount Vernon is very fortunate to have many stakeholders who are committed to improving our neighborhoods and the city. I applaud them for taking the time to work with the MVCTC and we look forward to the additional support for youth and family programs.”
Since its inception, the MVCTC has collected data from over 5,000 students from the local middle and high schools and have formed committees and subgroups to address the risk factors revealed within the survey results such as: community disorganization, academic failure, gang involvement and substance abuse. Through the years, the MVCTC has implemented successful initiatives such as Youth Services Provider Trainings; the Black History Month Challenge; Youth Town Hall Meetings; Police/ Youth Communication Training; After-school and Summer Programs; Film Academies, ect. The MVCTC has worked with grassroots agencies to inform parents of the national and local drug trends and have provided resources to families regarding health and educational services. One of the key accomplishments of the coalition is the “Adopt a Block” campaign, which includes a series of family oriented activities in an effort to improve the physical design of the environment and increase access to community resources. This year, more than 200 youth and families attended the resource fair on September 22nd at the Howard Street Playground and 150 parents are expected to attend Monday’s Family Day at AB Davis Middle School.
Mrs. Frank, mother of Andre Frank, posed questions to the group on ways to address the violence within the schools. Mount Vernon High School Principal Ronald Gonzales challenged the diverse group to visit the high school and work with his team to address some of the challenges within the school.
If you would like to attend a MVCTC meeting or would like to be added to their list serve, please contact Claudette Coote at (914) 665-2344.