Dutchess County Honors Youth and Police Initiative (YPI) Graduates
Program helps build positive change and trust between Poughkeepsie students and police officers
Dutchess County officials, New York State Sen. Sue Serino, City of Poughkeepsie Mayor Rob Rolison and Poughkeepsie City School District Superintendent Dr. Eric Jay Rosser were among those this past Saturday who celebrated 15 students from the district upon their graduation from the inaugural Youth and Police Initiative (YPI) training session, a weeklong, curriculum-based program, funded by Dutchess County Government, that helps build positive change and trust between young people and law enforcement by providing early intervention initiatives for students to build rapport with police officers.
In response to a series of recent incidents among school-aged children in the City of Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County has invested in several initiatives, including the YPI program, with the goal of de-escalating tensions in school and the community.
County Executive Marc Molinaro said, “The Poughkeepsie City School District and its students must succeed, and Dutchess County is proud to make available to them numerous resources and trainings to make that happen – an ongoing pledge to the children of the district, as well as the faculty, staff and administration entrusted with their care each school day. I commend these first graduates for taking the time and effort to complete this comprehensive training, from which they and their peers will benefit. By taking this step, these students have demonstrated their commitment to making their school, district and community a safer place, and we look forward to having more of their classmates follow in their footsteps.”
The graduation luncheon, held at Dutchess Community College’s Drumlin Hall, capped the first of the YPI training sessions for students and law enforcement scheduled in 2022.
Beginning on Tuesday, March 22nd, Poughkeepsie students took part in extensive YPI training following school over four days, with Beulah Baptist Church hosting the training sessions. The Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office, City of Poughkeepsie Police and New York State Police each provided officers for the program. Students were recruited from the Poughkeepsie High school and the R.E.A.L. Skills Network Inc. Peer mentoring program.
During the weeklong YPI training, local young people and police officers engage in discussions, games and role plays to build their public speaking and facilitation skills, get to know each other on a personal level and learn from each other. By inviting participants to engage in meaningful conversations, YPI aims to replace stereotypes with understanding and trust.
“This helped me build bonds with officers,” Poughkeepsie High School junior, and R.E.A.L. Skills Peer Mentor Darrian Black said. “I learned that not everyone is the same and you shouldn’t stereotype people based on social media.” Black became involved with the program after applying for a tutoring job with Family Partnership. “I would definitely recommend it to other students.”
The YPI training is another County program which reflects its commitment to the Path to Promise initiative, to ensure that all young people in Dutchess County have the assets they need to achieve their full potential. Successfully offered in other cities, including Newburgh, Albany and White Plains, YPI creates links to positive community resources that support young people. Highly structured, the training flourishes due to the involvement of each participant; participating students receive a stipend for their time and contributions to the program’s success, upon graduation.
“The Youth Police Initiative has been a good opportunity for PCSD students to establish leadership skills through a weeklong program with law enforcement. Students resoundingly applauded the program with a regret that it was only one week,” Dr. Rosser said. “PCSD is appreciative of the County and local law enforcement for their commitment to supporting the positive youth development of PCSD students. We look forward to additional students participating.”
The YPI training is just the latest resources Dutchess County Government has made available to the Poughkeepsie City School District, including two January 2022 virtual sessions in trauma-informed care, which was made available to hundreds of district teachers, administrators and support staff.
Following a meeting with County and district leaders in November 2021, and at the urging of County Executive Molinaro, the County Legislature included $500,000 in the 2022 County Budget to address violence among school-aged youth.
Dutchess County Government offers a wide range of mental health resources to all local school districts, including:
• Stabilization Center – available 24/7 at 230 North Road, Poughkeepsie
• HELPLINE (845-485-9700) – immediate phone or text link with mental health professionals and connection to services
• Mobile Crisis Intervention Team (MCIT) – caring mental health professionals who can go directly to a person in crisis to help prevent a situation from getting worse, see what the person needs, and connect them to services that can help them right away; and
• Youth Mental Health First Aid training.
More information about the County’s behavioral health services and programs is available on the Department of Behavioral and Community Health’s website.