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Programs planned at the Denver Public Schools were also a big winner. About $125,000 in grants will be funneled to DPS activities ranging from "violence-prevention sessions" for K-2 students at Asbury Elementary to "conflict-resolution" classes for parents, teachers and students at Columbine and University Park Elementary. At Rishel Middle School, movie tickets and roller-skating passes will be handed out as an incentive for parents to come to school with their children. DPS psychologist Vicki Tomlin received $8,000 for a four-year-old program called "A Place for Mentoring," which pairs middle school "mentees" with high-school-age mentors who are trained in "reflective listening" and "empathy skills."
The money in Tomlin's grant will go to pay for transporting the middle school students to the mentors' high schools once a week for eighteen weeks, and to buy lunch so that the students "can talk and eat at the same time," says Tomlin. Some of the money may also go to pay for hourly workers to help conduct evaluations of the program, notes Tomlin, who says she has collected empirical data that shows most of her mentees post significant gains in grade-point average and classroom behavior.
Mentoring programs and "conflict-resolution" training for kindergarteners may not have as direct an effect on youth violence as hiring troubled kids to mow lawns, acknowledges Gamblin. But he says Webb's dedication to "long-term policy development" has convinced the mayor that funding such programs is important. "Most people agree that the seeds of a thirteen-or fourteen-year-old are planted when they're very young," says Gamblin. "If we aren't intervening at that level, then we really are just fighting a numbers game."
Jimenez, however, argues that Webb and his allocation panel appeared to have a soft spot for socially ambitious programs whose impact on juvenile violence may be difficult, if not impossible, to measure--in part, he suggests, because liberal academics and social workers are a natural part of the mayor's constituency. "To me it's where the rubber meets the road, and if it's not dealing directly with kids, it's probably not going to have much of an impact," he says.
And much of the Safe City money will take a circuitous path before it reaches actual youth. Take, for instance, one of the largest grants in the program, a $30,000 allotment to a group called the Parent/Professional Partnership Institute. The Institute actually isn't an institute at all, but a program administered by the Center for Human Investment Policy, an agency housed at the University of Colorado-Denver's graduate school for public affairs but funded solely through grants and contracts. The Center won't use the money for children's programs, but will instead provide classes for teachers and professional staff at four to six Denver public schools.
Teachers will receive "intensive on-site work on communication skills, conflict resolution and understanding family needs and strengths," and parents also will get training in "leadership and advocacy skills," says grant writer Mimi Howard. Most of the money, she says, will pay the salaries of the two people who will work with teachers and parents: herself and a "parent educator" currently working part-time at the Center for Human Investment Policy. "The $30,000 isn't going into a program where children necessarily walk through the doors and it's a program where they're involved," Howard says. But "what they are getting hopefully are some parents who've developed some skills and understanding."
Jimenez, however, isn't impressed. The money would be better spent paying kids $6 an hour to mow lawns in Roybal's program than "giving someone $30,000 to teach teachers how to talk to parents," he suggests.
In another instance, the allocation panel recommended--and the mayor approved--giving $16,500 to the Colorado Children's Campaign to hold five "informational picnics" for young mothers in minority neighborhoods. The group plans to use the money for paying staff salaries, designing and printing a promotional poster, renting sites and other organizational costs, says project coordinator Carol Hunt. The grant also will subsidize stipends for "community enablers"--people who will be paid to round up mothers and children interested in attending the events. Once there, says Hunt, mothers will be given an information sheet outlining the location of the local school and health clinic and will participate in "fun activities" such as constructing a cardboard doll meant to symbolize their dedication to their child.
The largest grant, $140,000, went to a group called Street Smarts for Success, which wants to create what it calls an "incubator for youth-run businesses." Part of the money will help place young people in jobs with private-sector businesses, says spokesman Harry Boettcher, who notes that he doesn't have time to provide details since he's busy filling out forms to comply with city contract requirements. Boettcher says most of the money will pay for seminars, training materials and "incubator" materials designed to help at-risk youth "write a business plan."
Martinez cites a $32,000 grant to the group Listening Post, Inc., as another well-meaning effort that may wind up spending most of the money on administrative costs. According to Mary Osgood, Listening Post's director of public school relations, the fifteen-year-old program puts volunteer retirees at tables in school cafeterias, where they are available to engage children in lunchtime conversations. The retirees work for free, and the peanuts and apples served at the tables are usually donated by schools, so most of the money will go to pay the hourly wages of part-time contract workers who help run the program by giving speeches to teachers and "training" listeners. Among the lessons listeners need to learn, Osgood says, is that children don't only need someone to talk to when they're feeling bad. "If something really good happens to you, it's great to be able to share it with someone," she says. "For instance, I was excited to get this $32,000 grant."