Serve & Connect Announces North Columbia Youth Empowerment Initiative

Nationally funded effort to develop a model for police-community partnership

COLUMBIA, SC – Today Serve & Connect, alongside the Columbia Police Department and Parks & Recreation, announces a new initiative based in Columbia’s 29203 region. The North Columbia Youth Empowerment Initiative is a comprehensive community effort intended to create a model for use across the country.

Through a grant recently awarded from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, intended to develop a national model for effective police and community partnerships, the North Columbia Youth Empowerment Initiative will continue Serve & Connect’s mission of building trust and connections within communities. The goal of the effort is to promote coordination and strategic alignment among a host of groups already making a difference in the lives of neighborhood children.

“Serve & Connect believes and has witnessed that trust between communities and police is a serious issue that deeply impacts the safety and well-being of citizens and officers alike. We want to help forge a different path, which we hope may be used as a model across the United States, to create hope and opportunity for everyone,” said Kassy Alia Ray, founder of Serve & Connect.

Along with funding, the grant will bring resources, including the Wandersman Center, a research and consultation group lead by internationally acclaimed USC researcher Dr. Abe Wandersman.

“The Serve and Connect organization is focused on a police and community partnership - that focus compliments the mission of the Columbia Police Department which is to provide professional ethical service in the protection of our citizens, while preventing and reducing the fear of crime through problem solving partnerships,” said Chief Holbrook, City of Columbia Police Department.

The North Columbia Youth Empowerment Initiative kicks off today, November 28 at 4 p.m. in Earlewood Park. The event agenda may be found on the following page, including an introduction to the exciting work that lays ahead in 29203 as well as a chance for collaborative conversation. Speakers include Columbia Police Department Chief Skip Holbrook, Department of Juvenile Justice Director Freddie Pough, and Rev. Aaron Bishop, Senior Pastor of Grace Christian Church. Youth from Every Black Girl will present a musical performance. A facilitated, interactive conversation with community members and organizations will follow.

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