The July 19 Transform Westside Summit featured a panel of speakers sharing information about the At-Promise Center. Panelists included Aaron Nicholson, director of youth programs at Atlanta Police Foundation (APF); Lakeisha Walker, assistant director of youth programs at Atlanta Police Foundation; D. Aparicio Thompson, program manager of the At-Promise Center/CHRIS 180; Ebony White, employment advocate of the Urban League of Greater Atlanta and Training to Work; Gregory Bannister, site director of the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Atlanta/CHRIS 180; and Shannon Grossman, a therapist at the At-Promise Center. Joining the panelists were two At-Promise Center youth participants, TJ and Latrone.
Dave Wilkinson, APF president and CEO, opened the discussion by sharing the foundation’s history and mission to create a safer city. “The Police Foundation serves as the strategic arm of the City of Atlanta, working with the chief and the mayor and the community to build the public safety strategy for our city,” he said, noting that the results have been tremendous.
Crime is down in the city of Atlanta by more than 50 percent, specifically on the Westside by more than 45 percent over the last three years. “That’s remarkable when our goal was really 10 percent,” Wilkinson said. “That’s remarkable progress, and we’re very proud of that.”
As demonstrated through the stories shared by each panelist, programs and organizations like the At-Promise Center, CHRIS 180, the Urban League of Greater Atlanta, the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Atlanta and more are making a profound difference by directly addressing youth crime.
When a police officer arrests a young man or woman for a violent crime, Wilkinson said, you can look at their criminal histories and notice a pattern. They start out committing a minor crime, then a more serious crime, and it eventually leads to the violent crime.
“If we could have reached that young man or woman back when he or she committed that very first offense—if we could have brought about some help and some direction—it could have been a very different story,” Wilkinson said.
“Right now, we project that 50 to 60 percent of the crime committed in the city of Atlanta is committed by kids ages 12 to 24,” he continued. “There is absolutely nothing more important that we could be talking about.”
That’s why the APF seeks to ensure that the first priority of every Atlanta police officer is community service and changing the lives of these kids for the better. “And if a police officer doesn’t want to do that, they’ve got no business being a cop in the city of Atlanta,” Wilkinson said.
When the At-Promise Center was founded in August 2017, its goal was to serve 150 kids through its programs. However, the demand was so great that the center ended up serving 340 kids, and the results of the programs have been staggering:
- 89 percent of youth who applied for employment received a job.
- 96 percent of high school seniors graduated.
- Violent or felony crimes had a 4 percent recidivism rate (as compared to the 70-90 percent national average).
Summit attendees got an inside look at the At-Promise Center’s programs and services while hearing stories about the lives that have been changed through the center’s programs — lives of youth, participants, clients and staff.
“Everybody at the At-Promise Center is my family,” TJ said. “It opened my eyes up and let me know that I could go further in life.”
When asked what he’d say to other youth his age, TJ said, “At some point in time, you’re going to have to turn your life around, so it’s better to do it now than later.”
Ms. Jackson, a member of the At-Promise staff and a former client through CHRIS 180, said that the center helped her learn to trust and to love again after experiencing abuse.
Lakeisha Walker, also on staff at the At-Promise Center, said she felt that she is living out her calling. She remembered growing up on the Westside and was struck by the educational resources available now to youth in the community and by the ways in which young people and their families are being empowered.
The positive effect on the lives of those associated with the At-Promise Center and its partner organizations is tangible, from staff members to the youth.
Latrone summed up the impact of the At-Promise Center perfectly, performing an original rap entitled “Doing Big Things” to close out the Summit.
I’m thanking you for helping me to see the light.
You move different when your future’s kinda bright.
You know where we’ve been,
You know where we’ve been.
I’m on a mission to be great, and I will never quit.
As long as you’re keeping up the faith, you’re going to forever win.
In life I took a few Ls,
But it’s my time now
Because if you make it out the rain, watch the sun come out.
There’s hope even when it’s looking low.
Never stop chasing your dreams, stay on gold.
Big dreams, yeah I’m doing big things.
The audience erupted in applause, giving Latrone a standing ovation in an enthusiastic celebration of the Westside’s youth and the investment being made in the community at the At-Promise Center.
Since its inception, the Atlanta Police Foundation has worked to secure and leverage private resources to fund high-priority projects designed to enhance the City of Atlanta’s ability to fight and prevent crime. The At-Promise Youth and Community Center brings police and community partners together to create pathways to success. Located in historic English Avenue, the center is the cornerstone of the Atlanta Police Foundation’s youth crime reduction initiative, which enrolled 347 youth in its first year, providing specialized programming for youth and young adults ages 12 to 24 who reside on Atlanta’s Westside.
The Atlanta Police Foundation envisions a city where juveniles are embraced and provided with positive opportunities, a place where young people view police and public institutions as partners and have full access to an excellent education, premier health and social services and a community untroubled by violence. The foundation’s dedication to the At-Promise model helps create pathways to success for youth in Atlanta and reduces the number of young people who negatively experience the criminal justice system.
The Urban League of Greater Atlanta has been all about economic empowerment since opening its doors more than 98 years ago. As part of the National Urban League network of 98 historic civil rights organizations throughout the United States, the Atlanta organization remains dedicated to fostering economic empowerment in order to elevate the standard of living in historically underserved urban communities.
Opening Devotion with Mohamed Massaquoi
Mohamed Massaquoi, former University of Georgia and NFL wide receiver and founder of Iron M2, opened the Summit with a devotion, sharing the significance of one’s history and the impact it can have as well as the reality of adversity in life. By relating his story to those in attendance at the Summit, he offered insights about the rich history of Atlanta’s Westside neighborhoods, too, citing the importance of understanding what the past has done for the present and what the present is going to do for the future.
He also recognized that the most formative experiences are often hardships.
“Life is not without its challenges; life is not without adversity,” Massaquoi said. “There’s a misunderstanding in life that adversity is foreign. Adversity in life is actually quite common. It’s normal.”
He then shared wisdom gleaned from his father in the wake of the ATV accident in which he lost most of his left hand. “In order for valleys to be true, peaks have to exist,” he said. It takes climbing, work and sacrifice to reach the mountain tops, he explained, but those mountaintops are worth it — the peak is a thin slice between earth and heaven.
Massaquoi closed his remarks by encouraging the Westside community to continue striving, that the work and investment is not in vain and that the mountaintop is worth the climb. The deep roots and the rich history of the Westside have created a solid foundation for a lasting and thriving community that ought to be celebrated and shared.
“Now, in knowing more about my history, I know more about the responsibility I have to become what I’m supposed to become because of the foundation and because if the groundwork that was laid,” he said.
Additional Summit Highlights
- Atlanta Technical College (ATC) representatives will be on site during the Friday morning Summits to discuss how prospective students can get started at ATC. Those who apply at the Summit will have their ATC application fee waived. Learn more.
- Free Shuttle to the Summit: The Cute Shuttle will offer free, scheduled pickups on the Westside to help residents get to the Summit events on the first and third Fridays of the month. Pickup times are 6:50 a.m. at At-Promise Center (740 Cameron Madison Alexander Blvd., NW) and 7 a.m. at Hollis Innovation Academy (225 James Brawley Drive, NW). Learn more.
- Next Summit Date: Friday, Aug. 2. Register here.
- The next WFF Volunteer Day of Service will be Saturday, July 27. Volunteers will help with exterior construction and repair for senior citizens on Atlanta’s Historic Westside. There are still a few spots open. Register here.
- Home Depot Gift Card Raffle: Summit attendees who are current Westside residents or who work for a nonprofit serving Westside neighborhoods have a chance to win a $50 gift card from The Home Depot at each Summit event. Congratulations to Debra Prickett, the July 19 winner, pictured below.
Watch the Facebook live stream below.
Transform Westside Summit – July 19, 2019
Transform Westside Summit – July 19, 2019 About the Transform Westside Summit: Westside Future Fund’s Transform Westside Summit is held on the 1st and 3rd Friday of each month and is free and open to the public. Our audience includes a diverse group of stakeholders. Longtime neighborhood residents, community and faith leaders, heads of non-profits and corporate executives come together to share success stories and discuss challenges that currently affect our Westside neighborhoods. Meetings begin promptly at 7:15 a.m. with morning devotion,* presented by a member of the historic Westside community, and complimentary breakfast, provided by Summit sponsor Chick-fil-A. Special Event: Atlanta Technical College Enrollment Atlanta Technical College (ATC) is bringing its Wednesday Works recruiting and enrollment event to the Summit. Typically hosted on Wednesdays on the ATC campus, representatives will be on site during the Friday morning Summit sharing about how prospective students can get started at Atlanta Tech. Those who apply at the Summit will have their ATC application fee waived. Take a Free Shuttle to the Summit A free shuttle will do scheduled pickups on the Westside to help you get to the Summit. Summit Shuttle Pickup Locations: At-Promise Center (740 Cameron Madison Alexander Boulevard, NW); Hollis Innovation Academy (225 James P. Brawley Drive, NW). Pickup Times: 6:50 AM, 7AM. Many in our community are driven by their spiritual faith to participate in the Westside revitalization effort. The time at the beginning of our meetings is an opportunity to share various inspirational reflections. While the speakers may articulate their personal faith, it is meant to be inclusive, inspiring and meaningful. All are welcome.
Posted by Westside Future Fund on Friday, July 19, 2019