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☷ Danville Virginia - Project Imagine honors sixth class of graduates

☷ Danville Virginia - Project Imagine honors sixth class of graduates

Danville , state Virginia
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   Five teenagers were honored on Wednesday for completing life skills training and goal - setting exercises through Project Imagine , a program that gives gang - affiliated teens a future off the streets .  
   With the latest class of graduates , six classes totaling 36 teens have now completed the program in the last 10 months .  
   Graduating on Wednesday were Maryah Barksdale , Brandon Coleman , Dilier Coles , Christian Pinckney , and Cameron Walton .
   Mayor Alonzo Jones thanked the teens for participating in this program .
   “We believe in you , ” Jones said . “When you go home , put that certificate somewhere where you can see it every single day so that you can always review that accomplishment . ”
   Councilman Sherman Saunders talked about the importance of being a leader by serving as an example for others .
   “A leader is anyone who knows right from wrong , and because they did not do wrong , someone watching them didn’t do wrong , ” Saunders said . “Remember , someone is watching you . Be a leader for them . ”
   TaQuan Carter , a 24 - year - old volunteer in the program , encouraged the graduates to learn from their mistakes , as he had to do in his life .
   “You are going to make mistakes in life , but you can learn from each one , ” Carter said . “Don’t keep making the same mistakes because after a while , you will not keep getting second chances . ”
   Also speaking were City Manager Ken Larking and NAACP President Tommy Bennett .
   Project Imagine is directed by Robert David , the youth services and gang violence prevention coordinator for the City of Danville . The idea is that the program creates a positive image in the mind of the youth so that he or she can imagine a life without gangs or crime .
   “We work with kids who sometimes have been thrown away and given up on , ” David said . “We work with them . That is Project Imagine . That is what we do . ”
   As part of the training , the teens received strength - based assessments using the Casey Life Skills and Clifton Strengths tools that aim to set youth on their way toward developing healthy , productive lives .  
   “These assessments tell these teens what they are , ” David said . “Many times , with young people who have had pitfalls , everybody is telling them what they are not . These assessments tell these teens what their strengths are and what they can be . ”
   The teens also underwent goal - setting exercises .
   The program started in 2018 and consisted of a nine - week paid work experience and mentoring while on the job with a partnering agency .  
   The focus now is on developing relationships with gang - affiliated teens and maintaining those relationships as each teen progresses in meeting the goals they established during this initial phase of the program . One of the City’s youth services and gang violence prevention outreach workers is assigned to mentor each teen in the program for a minimum of one year .
   The teens in Project Imagine are chosen from referrals from the police department , courts , schools , and parents .
   Project Imagine has received national recognition . In 2020 , David was named a winner of the Frederic Milton Thrasher Award by the National Gang Crime Research Center . The award recognizes his accomplishments in gang prevention and intervention .
   The program also received the President’s Award from the Virginia Municipal League in October 2019 .
   

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