Milwaukee nonprofit gets national assistance for teen program (Journal Sentinel)

By Ashley Luthern

A Milwaukee nonprofit is one of three organizations nationwide to be awarded a grant that provides technical assistance for a new jobs-and-mentoring program for teens.

Community Advocates Public Policy Institute received the grant from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency. The grant does not come with monetary support but provides expertise and tactics to collect and analyze data related to Community Advocates' new pilot project, Milwaukee One Summer Plus.

The project aims to replicate a program found to reduce violent crime among teens in Chicago.

The Milwaukee version will provide 25 to 30 teens, ages 13 to 17, with jobs and mentors. Unlike in Chicago, it will be year-round instead of just in the summer, said Robert Cherry, director of Community Advocates Public Policy Institute.

The program will follow the "Pay for Success" model, in which private, public and nonprofit agencies provide upfront funding to service providers for programing, according to a news release.

If the programs achieve agreed-upon goals, the government repays the investors. If the goals are not reached, the government does not pay. A half-dozen programs with that funding model have been implemented nationwide.

Milwaukee One Summer Plus will have an application process. Some participants will have had prior involvement with the juvenile justice system, Cherry said. The program is set to launch in July.

Community Advocates has partnered with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee, which is where the teens will start working.

"That's where they will build the soft skills, like coming to work on time and things like that, and as they progress we'll send them to private employers," Cherry said.

The Center for Youth Engagement also is a partner in the program and helping develop a mentor network and opportunities for "social-emotional learning" for the teens, Cherry said.

"It's not just about work, but also addressing the emotional needs of kids as they grow up," he said. "Basically, we're teaching the kids how to deal with life, to have coping mechanisms and to deal with anger in tough situations."