Research could help determine future of Danville city leaders' efforts to reach out to youth

Parks and rec director researching what other cities are doing

DANVILLE, Va. – A research project is underway to determine the future of a Danville's efforts to increase civic engagement in young people.

Danville Vice Mayor Alonzo Jones said getting kids engaged is all about keeping them off the streets.

Jones is a member of the city's Mayor's Committee on Youth.

"We want to out-win the gangs. If the gangs are winning these young people, and we're seeing an increase in gang activity in our community, we want to be able to find a way to intercept that and get our young people's voice and see and hear exactly what our young people want their city to be doing for them," Jones said.

In 2013, a youth council was formed and has since been overseen by the Danville Parks and Recreation Department.

High schoolers meet for six to eight months to work on a civic-related project and advise city council members about issues that the city is dealing with.

But Parks and Recreation Director Bill Sgrinia said participation is declining.

"A youth council may not be the solution, but we are looking for ways to engage youth," Sgrinia said.

That's why the committee has asked him to research what other cities across the country are doing.

"We know that there are some successful models out there that other cities are using, and we're going to look at those models to see if there is something that we might be able to imitate," Sgrinia said.

He said the committee also needs to decide what it wants whatever organization that is formed to accomplish.

Jones said youth will be heavily involved in the formation of the organization.

Sgrinia plans to present his research in about three weeks.

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