PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The city is retooling a program to help prevent children like Kadeem Green from being killed. Ever-increasing violence involving young people on the streets of Philadelphia is prompting school district officials to expand a program meant to create mentorships with young males.
“The district established the LEAD program in 2020. LEAD, or Leaders Encouraging Achievement and Development, is an initiative to help support the needs of young Black males through mentorship,” Philadelphia School District Superintendent Dr. William Hite said.READ MORE: Residents In Marple Township Get Opportunity To Weigh In on PECO's Plans For Natural Gas Reliability Station
The LEAD program currently has 15 school safety officers involved and 40 students participating.
School officials will now be incorporating female students into the program in an effort to provide role models for more students. All of the district’s 325 school safety officers have received mentor training in preparation for the program.
“Through this program, mentors conduct hourlong sessions each week with a small group of middle-school-aged students and engage the students on a variety of topics using nationally recognized best practice standards,” Anjela Alvarado with the school district said.
“Mentoring is so important. The evidence identifies that if we just have one adult with a child, we can change the trajectory of that child forever,” Kevin Bethel, chief of school safety, said.READ MORE: Wearing Mask May Help Alleviate Seasonal Allergy Symptoms, Researchers Find
Bethel knows all too well the impact crime has on young people in Philadelphia. He served as deputy Philadelphia police commissioner for years.
The school district is reimaging safety for its students with mentorship programs — not looking to lock kids up but to keep them from heading down that path.
“How do we fit in into making sure that our young people are not engaging in violence? Now this is upstream, and some people can’t put a number on it,” Bethel said. “But every time these guys touch a child and change his trajectory and he’s not leading on the news today is a win.”
All involved in the program admit it’s an uphill battle in a city plagued by youth violence, but it’s another step in interrupting the pattern of gun violence.MORE NEWS: Philadelphia School District Welcomes More Students Back With Phase 3 Hybrid Learning Plan
For a list of gun violence resources in Philadelphia, click here.