CITY OF NORTH RICHLAND
Gangs, truancy, youth violence, drugs and other delinquent acts of youth had become a concern in North Richland Hills in 1994. This fast growing suburban community in Northeast Tarrant County was beginning to experience problems typically associated with an inner city. Rather than deny and passively ignore the grim warnings of escalating youth violence, the City and Mayor Tommy Brown decided to take a proactive stance. After researching the after school problems of unsupervised youth, a teen after school program was developed at two local middle schools in cooperation with the local school district.
The study indicated that youth left unsupervised after school make choices based on opportunity. Out of boredom and the need for acceptance, many are lured into joining gangs or engaging in other destructive activities. The after school program was developed to provide teens another choice.
In "The Edge" Teen After School Program, an average of 150 teens participate in a variety of programs between 3:15 and 5:30 p.m. Funding is provided by the City and includes a full-time Youth Outreach Coordinator and four part-time leaders. Activities include intramural sports, drama, arts, dance, chess, computer classes, science club, Helping Hands Social Service Club, mentoring program and other enrichment activities. A Peer Mediation Program is currently being developed which will assist with teen conflicts and problem solving. Another special project being developed is a natural wetland. It will serve as a ecological classroom for the science department and the after school program.
Collaboration with other agencies is important to the program. The City works with agencies such as the United Way, Northeast Tarrant Arts Council, the high school Honor Society, Brooks House (a shelter for runaway teens), local churches and businesses.
The value of the program is measured in several ways. Principals at each school have noticed a decline in fighting after school. There has been a reduction in absenteeism, drop-out rates, discipline problems and crime, and improvement in attendance and parental and community support.
Officials report that single parents and dual working parents rave about the program. They appreciate and take comfort in the fact that their teenage son or daughter is in safe hands after school, they say. One parent said at a recent PTA meeting, "This is the best thing the school did this year."
Contact: Office of the Mayor, (817) 581-5600
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright ©1996, U.S. Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.