An upbeat website for a downtown school

the Southerner Online

An upbeat website for a downtown school

the Southerner Online

An upbeat website for a downtown school

the Southerner Online

The Boards target for 2023-2024 was 32.5% of schools needing Tier 2 or Tier 3 support. They have exceeded this goal with 29.2% of schools reported needing the support.
School board focuses on innovation growth in district
Penelope KeenanFebruary 29, 2024

The Atlanta Board of Education reviewed Guardrail 4, which is focused on innovation and accountability in the district, by examining the progress...

Andre Dickens’ ‘Year of the Youth’ initiatives have ongoing impact in 2024

Janean Lewis
Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens is greeted by a hand-painted card when visiting Nadyne Jackson-West and Monica Thomas’s pre-K class at Benteen Elementary School.

In 2023, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens’ first full year in office, Atlanta saw a reduction in the rate of violent crimes and great increases in Atlanta Public Schools’ graduation rate. The city attributes these improvements, in part, to its first Year of the Youth, a program aimed to provide resources to Atlanta’s youth.

The Atlanta Police Department recorded 135 homicides in 2023, down 21% from 171 in 2022. The city saw reductions in other crimes, such as rape (down 51%), aggravated assaults (down 16%), robberies (down 15%), thefts from vehicles (down 9%) and burglaries (down 6%). APS recorded a graduation rate of 86.6%, the highest in the district’s history. At a press conference in early 2024, Dickens said the 2023 Year of the Youth initiatives helped lower the crime numbers and increase graduations.

Dickens’ Senior Policy Advisor for Youth Development and Education, Janean Lewis, designed and managed the Year of the Youth initiatives as the program’s strategic lead. However, she said a partnership with Atlanta Public Schools was important to informing Atlanta’s youth and getting them involved in the initiatives and resources.

“APS is our primary partner to recruit youth and inform about initiatives and resources available,” Lewis said. “I work very closely with the superintendent’s team and the school board to ensure all youth are notified. Also, we have invested in mentoring in APS middle schools with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta, [and we have] expanded the Child Savings Account in Title I elementary schools.”

Lewis said one initiative which had a great impact on the safety and enrichment of Atlanta youth was the Summer Youth Employment Program, which allowed Atlanta youth to explore different careers, gain workplace experience and earn wages during breaks from school.

“I think the Summer Youth Employment Program had [one of] the greatest impacts,” Lewis said. “We hired over 5,000 young people ages 14 to 24 for part-time jobs, averaging $17 an hour. This single program yielded over $10 million in wages to young people. And, for youth who were 14 to 15 years of age, we offered stipends to attend enrichment programming like music production or art classes.”

Dickens said the initiative was made possible by partnering with organizations such as the Atlanta BeltLine, Chess & Community, the Fox Theater, Kumon and Raising Expectations.

“We partnered with more than 100 community organizations to promote programs such as our Safe Spaces Partnerships that serve to keep our young people safe and busy during school breaks,” Dickens said. “We believe that delivering entertaining and worthy programming to young Atlantans can help provide outlets that nurture and support them and keep them out of harm’s way.”

Lewis says that the city’s investment in the youth is picking up momentum to be carried into 2024.

“The response and momentum to center children, youth and young adults has been tremendous,” Lewis said.” We cannot stop investing in programming in the middle of a school year, and we certainly want to build on the positive momentum that brings the community together to serve youth.”

One program Lewis and her office are planning to expand into 2024 is the Youth Ambassador Program with APS. The Youth Ambassador Program, started in 2023, lets youth get involved in and lead Year of the Youth initiatives and other programs in Atlanta.

“I work hand in hand with APS,” Lewis said. “[Together,] we are expanding a Youth Ambassador Program where the students will be engaged in civic leadership projects and cultural and fine arts projects.”

Junior Kate Berg learned of the programs in 2023 through her mom’s involvement at her temple and saw their positive effects in her area.

“I’ve heard a lot of positive feedback,” Berg said. “My mom works at a social justice thing at my temple that has been involved with the mayor. I’ve heard some really great things about the positive impact it’s had in the community.”

Lewis said Midtown students were very involved in the program, but increased feedback and participation would help grow the initiatives.

“Midtown students participated in all the 2023 programs and, most recently, at the Beloved Community Youth Fair, which was a service project that took place on the MLK holiday,” Lewis said. “I’d like for Midtown students to get involved with the Youth Ambassador program, Summer Employment Program and assist my office by submitting questions and concerns to the mayor.”

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About the Contributor
Penelope Keenan, Writer
Penelope Keenan is a sophomore and this is her first year on the newspaper. Outside of school she is part of the mock trial and ultimate frisbee teams. She's excited to write for the Southerner this year.

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