EWING, NJ – The College of New Jersey’s Center for Community Engaged Learning and its Bonner Institute for Civic and Community Engagement have received a $40,000 grant from the Fund for New Jersey to increase the capacity of the Trenton Prevention Policy Board, a local network that is focused on promoting positive youth development and preventing juvenile delinquency in the capitol city. The grant will allow staff to create teaching and learning opportunities that simultaneously address the needs of the community.
“Our students will have the chance to sharpen their research skills and deepen their understanding of complex social problems while they facilitate focus groups with young Trentonians and other residents. These focus groups will help residents and youth have their voices heard during the policy development process,” according to Patrick Donohue, Assistant Provost for Community Engaged Learning Programs and Partnerships, who oversees the Bonner Institute for Civic and Community Engagement, among other programs.
The Trenton Prevention Policy Board, established in 2010 by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office of Community Justice as part of statewide effort known as the Municipal Policy Planning Board Initiative. Since its founding, the Board has evolved into both a policy and collective impact project.
Each month, Local stakeholders gather together with academic experts to share their knowledge about policies, programs, services, and best practices so they can make informed recommendations aim at reducing juvenile delinquency. The members of TPPB are organized into six issue-based working groups. The members of each group collaborate with another to implement one recommendation or project on an annual basis. One working group, for example, is working with a local church to establish a faith-based safe haven in a neighborhood that faces many challenges. Another is focusing on creating trauma response units that can respond to the needs of residents on specific blocks in the aftermath of a shooting.
According to Marygrace Billek, Director of Mercer County’s Division of Health and Human Services and one of the Board’s co-chairs, its largest success story to date was the creation of the Trenton Violence Reduction Strategy (TVRS). The innovative strategy was developed by a working group of TPPB members in collaboration with faculty from Rutgers-Camden, based on a hybrid of the Boston and Chicago models of Operation Ceasefire. After the idea was recommended by the TPPB Juvenile Delinquency Working Group, a committee of writers, led by Detective Alexis Durlacher, submitted and obtained a $1.1 million grant from the Attorney General’s Office to implement the TVRS initiative.
Wanda Moore, the Director of the Attorney General’s Office of Community Justice, commented that “TCNJ and the leaders of the TPPB have established an exceptional model for others who are interested in seeing how campus and community partnerships can work together and have a significant impact on some of our most challenging public problems.
Jason Rogers, another TPPB co-chair and leader of Fathers and Men United for a Better Trenton, echoes that sentiment, “This is the one place where individuals at the grassroots who want to make a difference can be heard, and if they stay involved, really help the city. We are proud to be a part of the next phase of this project.
TCNJ’s Bonner Institute has been the lead facilitator agency of the TPPB since 2011, connecting the grassroots expertise in the community with the on-campus resources and knowledge. Madeline Bell is the Coordinator of the Board and the participating faculty include Drs. Diane Bates, He Len Chung, Sandy Gibson, Stuart Roe, Bruce Stout, and Shaun Wiley.