NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH)–If age brings wisdom, the adult workers at ‘EMERGE Connecticut’ are ready to share their wisdom with the next generation of at-risk youth, whom they closely identify with.
“A lot of younger guys ask what I do,” said Roger Johnson, an EMERGE worker from New Haven. “If I can be a positive pillar where I’m at, I’m all for it.”
Johnson’s life growing up in New Haven eventually landed him in prison. After struggling to find work upon release, a friend referred him to EMERGE Connecticut, which gives those formerly incarcerated new life in the form of manual labor jobs.
“These men are truly rebuilding parts of the community that they used to terrorize. That’s the magic,” said EMERGE Executive Director Dan Jusino. “Now we get to do the same thing for the next generation.”
Thanks to a United States Department of Labor grant announced Monday, EMERGE will receive nearly $960,000 to train at-risk 16 to 24 year-olds in construction, alongside their adult mentors.
The money will fund construction of three new homes for low-income families in New Haven. The kids will also have a chance to earn their high school diploma or GED.
“These are the most at-risk,” Jusino said. “If we get them to buy in, we can move the needle on crime.”
Grants were also awarded to similar programs in Bridgeport, Hartford and New Britain.