Isles provides a comprehensive set of services designed to support the youth of Trenton so they can be leaders and civic actors of the present and future. Isles Youth Services provides constructive and supportive after-school and evening social and cultural programming for youth that builds leadership skills, affirms youth’s pride in themselves and their communities, and promotes non-violent conflict resolution. This work is a key component to Isles’ broader violence prevention and community development work, as we seek to provide a range of alternative activities and pathways to positively engage and impact Trenton’s youth.
AFTER SCHOOL PROGRAMMING
Isles’ After School Programming is open to all youth in the community and provides educational and recreational activities as an alternative entertainment option between the high-risk hours of 3 to 7 pm and on some weekends. Isles offers life skills training, cultural enrichment activities, and opportunities to participate in service learning events. Activities in the past have included trips to the theater, college tours, etiquette classes, art classes, and more. Over 100 youth participate in our EEP annually, forming a community of engaged young people.
The Trenton Reengagement Center works one-on-one with youth who have left the public school system to get them back on track to completing their high school diploma. Reengagement Center staff develop individualized plans for participants’ future education and training, connect them with resources and educational and vocational opportunities to help meet their goals, and follow-up with them to ensure long-term success. Staff work with youth to identify the most appropriate option for continuing their education, whether Isles Youth Institute, Mercer County Community College’s programs, or vocational training, certifications, and career opportunities.
Isles created the Leadership Academy in 2016 as part of Isles Youth Institute to ensure that our students had all the necessary tools to become leaders in their communities and beyond. Today, the Leadership Academy provides youth from across the community with structured lessons focused on character, community, and team development. Over the years, participants have presented various works of art at Bryant Park in NYC, served as panelists at the NJ Black Issues Convention, participated in the Trenton Youth Violence Prevention Symposium at The College of New Jersey, and hosted podcasts and radio shows with local community leaders.
Isles’ Violence Prevention work involves addressing factors that can contribute to violence, such as environment and safety, education and schooling, economic pressures, family relationships and exposure to violence, and community engagement and availability of services and programs. It also involves being a strong voice in the community for violence prevention efforts through participating in the Capital City Youth Violence Coalition (CCYVC) and working with other community groups to create anti-violence initiatives and programming for both youth and adults. Our most recent anti-violence campaign in the Trenton is titled Increase the Peace.
Isles Youth Services were developed to address the number of structural, systemic, and immediate challenges facing Trenton’s youth today. Violence in the city has spiked in recent years, with a record 40 homicides in both 2020 and 2021, and at least 148 shooting victims in 2020 and more than a third of those incidents involving youth under 24. Youth often struggle to get a sense of stability in this environment, lacking positive ways to engage in their communities and facing obstacles like experiences with the juvenile justice system, family caretaking responsibilities, and housing and food insecurity.
A combination of these challenges and a lack of support and opportunity often lead to youth becoming disconnected from Trenton’s under-resourced education system. 29% of Trenton’s population do not have a high school diploma, which restricts their future career opportunities. Though Isles Youth Institute provides a way for youth to attain that diploma and other training and life skills, many don’t fit into IYI and seek other paths to education. Isles’ Youth Services work to address the lack of resources and opportunities available to youth and help them navigate these challenges to find an alternate path forward.
Why Youth Services?
Isles Youth Services work to foster self-reliant youth who can meet their goals and positively impact their communities. Our Re-engagement Center works individually with disconnected youth to develop plans for their future education and training and connect them with the resources to help meet their goals. Youth seeking opportunities to develop leadership skills can join our Leadership Academy, which aims to transform communities through giving youth knowledge of and experience in civic and public engagement. As a way to keep youth engaged in positive outlets, we also offer alternative entertainment options during high-risk hours for violence; our after-school programming provides educational and recreational activities and opportunities for cultural enrichment for all youth in Trenton. While these services all contribute to making Trenton an environment intolerant to violence, we also use our influence and voice to promote anti-violence goals locally and regionally. These four components of Isles Youth Services help further our mission of empowering Trenton’s youth to reach their goals and become leaders in their communities and beyond.