Mayor Alvin Brown launched a youth initiative Friday that will increase summer job opportunities, expand efforts to keep first-time, nonviolent juvenile offenders out of repeat trouble and develop youth leaders in the community.
"Improving opportunities for Jacksonville's next generation is one of my top priorities," Brown said. "Young people represent the hope of our community. Wise investments in our youth pay huge dividends for them and for Jacksonville."
The mayor announced his youth initiative at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Breakfast at the Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center, featuring journalist Soledad O'Brien.
As a starting point, the initiative will focus on expanding a public-private partnership to supply more summer jobs for youth, providing additional support to help Teen Court deal with first-time offenders and creating a new opportunity for youth leadership.
Brown said he will expand the mayor's summer jobs program to increase the number of private-sector employers and youth participants. The program, which includes job-readiness training, provided jobs for more than 600 young people last summer.
Businesses interested in participating can obtain more information at www.coj.net/summerjobs. Information for youth interested in summer jobs will be available in the spring.
"Our business supports the mayor's summer jobs program," said Paresh Hiripara, CEO of Enaptive, an information technology company headquartered in Jacksonville. "We were honored to participate as an employer last year and we look forward to doing so again this summer. This public-private partnership is a good investment for our business and it's a good investment for Jacksonville."
Brown said he will ask the City Council to reallocate funds from Jacksonville Journey to increase the number of first-time nonviolent juvenile offenders able to participate in Teen Court and Neighborhood Accountability Boards, which offer a constructive alternative to arrest and detention for misdemeanor offenses. The legislation is currently pending before the council and scheduled to be considered by council committees in February.
The budget transfer would enhance a program currently used by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, the state attorney's office and the Fourth Judicial Circuit Court and enable it to serve an additional 250 eligible youth each year. It would also add a third Neighborhood Accountability Board site to serve Mayport and the beaches area, using a restorative justice model to promote offender accountability and community safety.
Brown also said he will establish a Young Leaders Advisory Council composed of 50 high school juniors and seniors. The council will be created through executive order.
"It takes a village to raise a child, and once the community comes together it will be perfect, these kids will have great role models from every aspect," Jacksonville resident Sebastian Alexander said.
The advisory council will give youth with leadership potential the opportunity to learn more about city government and effective citizenship so they can make a positive difference as young leaders. The council will also share ideas with city officials on youth issues.
"I look forward to Mayor Brown's new youth initiative as a vital catalyst for community-wide efforts aimed at giving Jacksonville's children and young people greater opportunity to succeed in life," said Connie Hodges, president of the United Way of Northeast Florida.