POUGHKEEPSIE – The Poughkeepsie City School District (PCSD) Board of Education (BOE) has approved n agreement that will bring former gang members into the high school in an attempt to curb teen violence. The agreement with Family Services Inc. was approved Wednesday night.
SNUG (guns spelled backward) is an outreach program under the Family Services umbrella. The program is partially funded by the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services. The program focuses on youth between the ages of 14 and 24 who are at high risk for involvement with gun violence and the counselors attempt to intervene before the violence occurs. The counselors are primarily former gang members, some of which spent time in prison, and interact with at-risk teens using their own life experiences to prevent the youth from making the same bad decisions.
BOE board member Debra Long is the Program Coordinator for SNUG and says the program serves as an “interrupter,” and is not associated with any law enforcement agencies. Because they are not part of the police, Long says that the teens are more willing to talk with the counselors.
PCSD Superintendent Dr. Eric Rosser said the agreement is provided at no charge and the program in the high school is slated to bring SNUG members into the building to perform conflict resolution, counseling, and outreach in an attempt to reduce the gang and gun violence that has been on the rise in recent months. Long said “We want to develop relationships with the at-risk youth and show them that violence is not the solution to their problems”.
According to the agreement, “The partnership will focus on addressing the issues that may cause youth to engage in violent behavior. A “high-risk” participant could be a youth with a history of violent activities, may have been justice-involved, and/or is engaged in high-risk street activity. The success of this partnership will be accomplished through a cooperative relationship designed to provide in-school and out-of-school support, while working directly with youth to modify the existing norm of community acceptance of violence”.