Neighborhood hopes tech and wellness hub will break cycle of poverty and incarceration

Wed, 2016-03-23 13:45 -- Compassionate C...

With poverty and incarceration rates among New York City's highest, the Brownsville neighborhood in Brooklyn is the focus of a new initiative to break the cycle by improving digital literacy and public health.

Some 30 diverse organizations including government agencies and community groups are partnering to create what they're calling "the Campus" – a technology, wellness and career development hub they say will be the first of its kind in a public housing site in the U.S.

Programs will be open to the community but with a particular focus on neighborhood youth ages 12-18.

When the Campus launches in the fall, leaders envision:

  • Having co-working space for local tech startups and entrepreneurs
  • Hosting coding and app development workshops
  • Providing e-workforce development skills building
  • A wellness focus to help confront local public health challenges, including overcoming stress and anxiety

Satellite sites will offer counseling services and a mobile food pantry.

Need a holistic approach
"Our kids are facing a lot of stress in their lives with school, drugs, gangs in the community, coming home to no food. So that’s something we’re going to work on and we’re going to have a holistic approach to making this happen," NY State Sen. Jesse Hamilton said in a DNAinfo.com article.

Hamilton, whose district includes Brownsville, spearheaded the Campus effort. He said he understands firsthand some of the challenges Brownsville young people face because he grew up in public housing in New York too.

"Their experience is my experience," Hamilton said. He credits his mother's focus on education for helping get him where he is today and said he wants to pass that focus on to all the children in his district.

They don't belong in prisons
The idea is for the Campus to give Brownsville's young people confidence and to expand their career opportunities.

"I want to put that image in your head that for every African-American or Latino male that you see within this community of Ocean Hill/Brownsville, imagine them being STEM-trained, and the girls too," said Mauriciere de Govia, superintendent of School District 23. "When you see them, see them coding. See them creating video games. Because they don’t belong in prisons."

Developers of the next generation
Technology defines the economy of the 21st century, an economy where our students are competing with people from around the world and must develop the skills to succeed, said Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams.  

"Brooklynites who learn at the Campus will have the opportunity to become the developers of the next generation, building our borough’s reputation as a destination for innovation," Adams said. "I share State Senator Hamilton’s commitment to unlocking the potential of Brownsville, harnessing the energy from public and private partnerships to make this community a safer and more prosperous place to raise healthy children and families."

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This article is from the Council's Compassionate Cities initiative which highlights how city leaders and other stakeholders can leverage smart technologies to end suffering in their communities and give all citizens a route out of poverty. Click the Compassionate Cities box on our registration page to receive our weekly newsletter.

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