KINGSTON – The Peaceful
Guardians Program, a project for at-risk youth feeling alienated by their
local police and those police officers struggling to relate to those youths,
was adopted unanimously by the Kingston Common Council Tuesday evening.
The program, funded through Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley, will help bridge the gap between at-risk youths in the Kingston school district and their police.
A private benefactor to Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley has dedicated $65,000 for the first year of the program and $105,000 a year for the next five years. This money will help supplement the overtime pay for police officers involved in the program and other expenses.
Kevin Quilty, vice president of Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley, said the idea is to bring these two groups together so that they may understand one another on a more human level, rather than one of authority and subordination.
“Their concept is to bring these students together, with policemen, over a period of time and share their thoughts and feelings, over a period of time, in close encounters and seminars and educational projects that will enhance their community feeling and enhance their emotional response to one another,” said Quilty.
Peaceful Guardians Program Director Lester Strong said students from the Kingston school district will be vetted for their propensity for the program, starting with the middle schools. There will be three cohorts throughout the school year, with the first consisting of about 16 children.
“Out of those students, there will be a vetting process to identify them, to make sure that they are committed to the kind of work that we’re going to offer them; and once we’ve identified those youths, then we’ll start putting them through the program,” said Strong. “We’ll have between 48 and 50 youngsters during the school year and then what we’ll decide is who will go in the first cohort, the second cohort and the third cohort.”
The Program is expected to begin in November with the first group of students.