As a community-based school, WHSAD recognizes the need to develop lasting relationships with organizations in order to inspire and advocate for our students. Ms. Dana Rachlin and NYCTogether bring a crucial element to WHSAD, and we appreciate the organization’s continued support of our future leaders.
The following narrative comes from the NYCTogether website. Ms. Rachlin and her team have been instrumental in bringing adolescents and New York City police officers together in creating a dialogue that promotes constructive relationships for the betterment of the city’s future. WHSAD’s students have enjoyed numerous opportunities to express their thoughts regarding personal and societal concerns.
More information about NYCTogether’s mission, projects, and history can be found at its website: https://nyctogether.org/
It’s not every day that a high school junior gets to share his ideas on how to reduce crime in his community with the Police Commissioner, but at NYC Together, our students are empowered to become leaders in their communities; not just in the future, but right now.
This February, NYC Together students Justin and Josh were selected to attend a meeting in Brooklyn’s 75th police precinct to identify strategies to achieve the goal of bringing violent crime down in their community. “The event was pretty interesting,” said Josh, “We were broken off into smaller groups and we talked about things that we could do to help lower the crime rates and solve a lot of problems in our communities to be able to make our communities safer.”
This isn’t Josh’s first time stepping up as a leader in his community. As a sophomore, Josh and his peers were looking for a new after-school program, so they asked their school administration for help. That’s when his school pointed him to NYC Together, and he’s been involved ever since.
Representing NYC Together, Justin and Josh joined a group of community members and NYPD officers to create and implement a new vision for nine precincts in New York City that have violent crime rates more than twice as high as the rest of the city. When first asked to attend such an important meeting, Josh said, “It felt like woah, we gotta prepare. We didn’t really know what to expect.” When they arrived, Josh noticed a familiar face in his small group: Chief Maddrey. Josh and Chief Maddrey met previously through an NYC Together program dinner, which helped Josh feel more comfortable sharing his ideas with the group.
“We were asked to come up with ideas on what we feel is most important in terms of a safe community is concerned, and what we can do now to build a safer community,” said Josh. Several attendees said that the youth in high crime communities needed more positive programming and organizations, but Josh believes it’s more important to get young people involved in existing programs at an earlier age. He also noted that youth in different neighborhoods have drastically different experiences. “As far as what we’re in need of, there’s a deficiency of resources that other communities have. Smaller things are the cause of bigger issues. Not having access to community centers, fresh food.”
The goal of the meeting was to make New York City safe and fair everywhere, but it also proved to be an opportunity for Josh to make meaningful connections with NYPD officers and other members of his community. “I learned a lot just being around people. Getting to see how they thought, how I thought, things aren’t that different. Being able to touch base with the people who live in these communities and the ones who are supposed to protect it was crucial.” he said.
At the meeting, Joshua and Justin were able to tell Comissioner O’Neill about their close friend’s experience as the victim of crime, and how he didn’t think to call the police becuase they didn’t represent safety or justice to him; a problem Comissioner O’Neill told Joshua he wants to address. For Joshua, the opportunity to open this dialogue with officers was crucial, “It’s hard to be a citizen looking outside in, but once you get close to them it was reassuring that these are people you can trust.”