Wilmington Chamber of Commerce to Back New Summer Program Aimed to Prevent Youth Violence

Jan 23, 2014

Violent crime hurts Wilmington’s kids—as well as its businesses. This is according to the Wilmington Chamber of Commerce. And it’s why they’ve teamed up with the Blue Ribbon Commission on the Prevention of Youth Violence to implement a new program designed to keep kids off the streets during the summer—a time when young people are statistically likely to slip academically, and to get into trouble. The Chamber is now asking its members to chip in $75,000 dollars to help kick off a 60-student pilot program.

The Bell Summer Learning Program—a five-week initiative that already exists in 11 cities--calls on area educators and nonprofits to dedicate mornings to academics, and afternoons to field trips and other structured activities. Wilmington’s program would be based within the north side’s DC Virgo Academy. And at a recent Chamber breakfast, District Attorney Ben David served up some statistics tracing criminal activity to a lack of educational opportunities.

"If you’re talking about return on investment, isn’t that what you do in business? You have to look at when you’re really going to get the most return for what you’re putting in, and education is where it’s at. And the best crime prevention tool I’ve ever seen is quality education. If we’re not doing that, I can already tell you who we’re gonna be prosecuting—and that’s not acceptable. I can already tell you who’s gonna be in a gang—and that’s not acceptable."

Connie Majure-Rhett, President of the Chamber of Commerce, adds that Wilmington’s violent reputation could be affecting its ability to attract new businesses—especially considering that today’s companies do their research online.

"Crime certainly impacts economic development and quality of life, so I think the ultimate objective is to be able to get this summer initiative in all of our schools, for all of our at-risk kids."

The Chamber of Commerce has so far received $15,000 to get this program off the ground this summer.