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With Fresh Funding, Bridgeport Youth Groups Hope To Keep Kids Engaged

Bridgeport, Conn.
Image by TMG177 from Pixabay
Bridgeport, Conn.

Bridgeport received $1.5 million in the recent state budget to fund youth organizations that focused on gun violence prevention, extracurricular education and job training. State Senator Marylin Moore, a Democrat, said the investment in these programs has the potential to create positive opportunities for young people.

“I've heard from many people in the community about what we need for our children. Many times, it's about jobs. Many times, it's about education,” Moore said at a recent town hall with Bridgeport youth groups. “I want to focus on all the positive things and not the things that have gone wrong with the community or what we don't have, but really focus on the glass being full.”

This follows an outcry from Connecticut Republicans who sayid juvenile crime is on the rise, especially in car thefts and other crimes of opportunity.

Republicans want the state to lift a six-hour limit on detaining minors without a court order, and electronically monitor repeat offenders. House Speaker Matt Ritter said Democrats are open to certain changes, but they do not plan to address crime in a special session this summer.

Bridgeport youth organizations argue their sustained funding is more important.

John Torres, the executive director of Bridgeport Caribe Youth Leaders, said the foundation encourages young people to stay and become involved in school.

“Our mission is to provide youth with sports, education and civic direction, helping them build the character and self esteem they need to reach their full potential and value in society,” he said. "Our objective is real simple. We want our kids to be very successful community members.”

That also includes money for 100 Girls Leading, which provides mentorship to young girls ages 9 to 18. Its founder and president, Bobbi Brown, said having her own mentors growing up in Bridgeport allowed her to attend college, become a community advocate and run for office. She said her postal worker would ask every day where she wanted to attend college, motivating her to pick a school.

“She had an investment in me. She really wanted to know where I was going to go, where I was going to be,” she said.

Other foundations that will receive money include Walter E. Luckett Jr Foundation, which teaches career readiness and financial literacy courses, and the Buddy Jordan Foundation, which helps youth who have been exposed to violence deal with trauma.

Leah is a former intern with WSHU Public Radio.