November 27, 2013
Free “Saturday Night Lights” Youth Athletics and Academics Initiative Has Served 2,700 Kids and Teens to Date
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., received the Attorney General’s Award for Outstanding Contributions to Community Partnerships for Public Safety from U.S Attorney General Eric Holder for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office’s work in combating youth violence. The award, which recognizes outstanding achievement in the development and support of partnerships designed to address public safety within a community, was given to a team whose collaboration made the “Saturday Night Lights” youth athletics and academics program developed by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office in October 2011 possible. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, “the partnership of this program with local law enforcement and social services agencies helps reduce youth violence and increase high school graduation rates.”
“Criminal prosecutions of young gang members have repercussions far beyond the four walls of a courtroom,” said District Attorney Vance. “It’s not enough to remove the bad actors from a given community – we also need to make sure that we create opportunities for engagement, enrichment, and diversion for young people. My partners and I share a belief that our ‘Saturday Night Lights’ program is doing just that, by performing the critically important function of preserving and restoring public safety, community togetherness, and confidence in communities directly affected by gang and gun violence. On behalf of all of the Saturday Night Lights awardees, I would like to thank Attorney General Holder for this high honor.”
In addition to District Attorney Vance, the following individuals were recognized by the U.S. Department of Justice for their collaborative effort in reducing youth violence: from the New York County District Attorney’s Office, Chauncey Parker, Executive Assistant District Attorney for Crime Strategies, Estelle Strykers-Santiago, Director of the Reentry and Juvenile Justice Unit, and Joselinne Minaya, Supervisor of the Reentry and Juvenile Justice Unit; from the New York Field Division of the DEA, Associate Special Agent in Charge Wilbert L. Plummer and Special Agent Michael Abraham, Jr.; from the NYPD’s Community Affairs Bureau, Chief of Department Philip Banks and Assistant Commissioner for Juvenile Justice Kevin O’Connor; from the New York City Housing Authority, Commissioner John Rhea; Ross Burns, Director of Pro Hoops Inc.; Collin Henry, Director of AllStarr Volleyball; Alana Sweeny, Executive Director of the Police Athletic League; Greg Rideout, Deputy Program Officer for Youth Services and Workforce Development at the Henry Street Settlement; Lew Zuchman, Executive Director of the Supportive Children Advocacy Network; and Tonyna McGhee, Assistant Vice President and Director of Children’s Village.
Since it was created in October 2011, the Saturday Night Lights program has given approximately 2,700 boys and girls between the ages of 11 and 18 the chance to train with professional coaches at five locations in Manhattan, including the Lower East Side, Washington Heights, East Harlem, Central Harlem, and West Harlem, as well as at a new site in Brownsville, Brooklyn. The year-round program offered on Friday and Saturday nights is free of charge for all participants and funded in part by asset forfeiture money seized through anti-drug initiatives.
The program, which includes “Drill and Play” Basketball, “AllStarr Volleyball” and upcoming “Harlem RBI Skill” component, was created to reduce youth violence through community engagement, and in response to the prosecution of several gangs that recruited teenagers and young girls to carry guns and drugs for gang members. On weekend nights, when the risks for juvenile crime and juvenile crime victimization are at their highest, the six Saturday Night Lights sites open their doors to young people in need of safe, positive, and healthy activities in a supervised setting.
Through the complementary Advocate to Graduate academic tutoring program, the Saturday Night Lights initiative seeks to ensure that all student athletes are also succeeding academically in middle and high school.
To learn how to register children and teens for free, high-quality athletic programming, please visit the program’s Facebook page or its homepage on the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office’s website. Additional information about the annual Attorney General’s Awards Program can be found on the U.S. Department of Justice website.