For nearly a decade, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) has helped the New York City Police Foundation (NYCPF) support the people on the front lines of making New York City a safe place for all to live, work, and visit. The partnership between SNF and NYCPF, like so much of SNF’s grantmaking, has focused particularly on community and on helping young people thrive.
SNF’s most recent grant earlier this year, for instance, supported NYCPF’s Community Engagement Initiative. The premise of the initiative is that fostering relationships between officers and the communities they work in to encourage dialogue, positive interactions, and mutual trust helps make all New Yorkers safer—starting with responding to concerns right in the community.
Events like holiday celebrations, community baby showers, and outdoor activities offer residents a chance to gather and have fun while giving officers the opportunity to get to know them and interact on a personal level. A recent community baby shower in Brooklyn co-hosted with an array of city, health, and community organizations, for instance, highlighted issues that matter to parents and kids, like mental health, food insecurity, and health care access.
Another recent SNF grant supported the Options program, which uses virtual reality technology to simulate scenarios in which young New Yorkers have to make difficult choices. By playing through the scenarios, 14- to 18-year-old participants learn about emotional intelligence and gain confidence and experience in resolving conflict and navigating situations involving everything from cyberbullying to police stops, sex trafficking, gang recruitment, hate crimes, domestic violence, and guns.
Tens of thousands of young people have participated in the program, which offers life skill and career development opportunities. Some of them are invited to become Options facilitators after participating in a stipended training program called Learn2Earn that imparts skills related to community-building, communication, and financial management. “Being in Learn2Earn has always been a great experience, since I was in the financial management course myself to now helping to teach it,” said Nialli J., a participant in the training program. “I've learned a variety of things, and even with having the great opportunity to teach, I still find myself learning more, and I get to help other young people.”
In May of this year, the Options Wellness Center opened in the Bronx to provide a safe space for young people to hang out, express their creativity, and participate in Options workshops designed to foster personal growth. The Center also hosts outreach programming put on through the Community Engagement Initiative. Here, as in all of NYCPF’s efforts for New Yorkers, community is key to a safer city.