Mayor Brown was joined for the announcement at J. Gardner Nip Sams Memorial Park by attorney Steve Pajcic, who for a second year presented the Mayor with a $50,000 check to help fund his Urban Parks Initiative. The initiative helps youth in some of Jacksonville’s higher-crime neighborhoods participate in safe and productive recreation during their summer break. But this year there was a giant boost to the mayor's efforts to help combat crime from national sources. Join us after the jump to find out the enlargements and improvements to this excellent program.
JACKSONVILLE, Fla., May 14, 2015 – Jacksonville’s Rec ’N Roll program for inner-city youth will expand from 10 parks to 18 parks starting in June, Mayor Alvin Brown announced today. The eight-week summer program places coaches and retired coaches in urban parks for supervision and guidance during the summer break.
J. Gardner Nip Sams Park is new to Rec N’ Roll Jax, and one of seven parks in the program located inside or near a geographic area designated by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office as the “Operation Ceasefire Zone.”
Other parks in and around the zone include Clanzel T. Brown, Grunthal, Johnnie Walker, Julius Guinyard, Lem Merrett and Woodstock. Other Rec N’ Roll parks include Bruce, Carvill, Charles Clark, Panama, Pine Forest, Ray Greene, Tallulah, Thomas Jefferson, Warrington, Willowbranch and Yancey.
During the program’s inaugural year in 2014, more than 350 youth regularly participated at 10 parks. Each adult supervisor was assisted by two teens working in the Summer Jobs Program.
“Today we are expanding our commitment to help teens reach their potential and stay out of trouble,” Mayor Brown said. “I thank Steve Pajcic and the Pajcic & Pajcic law firm for their community leadership through this donation. By working together, we can give our young people more safe places and more great activities that empower them.”
The Summer Urban Parks Initiative, also known as “Rec ‘N Roll Jax,” starts Monday, June 15, and runs through Friday, August 7.
Pajcic remembers the times he and his brother Gary spent in Woodstock Park as young boys and credits that experience with his success today.
“I want kids growing up today to have the same opportunities that I had, which was to come to this park that was like a second home to me, and feel safe, hang out, have fun and grow up without having to worry so much about crime or other things,” Steve Pajcic said. “It seems today we don’t honor our children enough by giving them this kind of opportunity and I want to change that. We need to do for our children what we used to do for them and maybe we can have the kind of success with our children that we used to have.”
Barely two weeks after he requested assistance from the U.S. Department of Justice, National League of Cities, and other organizations in Jacksonville’s fight against crime and gang violence, Mayor Brown also announced that he has already received commitments of support in response to his request.
Shortly after Mayor Brown requested assistance, the Justice Department offered the City of Jacksonville the opportunity to participate in Fourth National Summit on Preventing Youth Violence, an invitation-only summit hosted by the Department of Justice National Forum on Youth Violence Prevention. Federal Policy Director Tony Hill and Special Assistant to the Mayor Taurean Sinclair attended the summit this week and met with leaders from the U.S. Department of Justice, National League of Cities, and other organizations to discuss Mayor Brown’s request.
In those meetings, the U.S. Department of Justice has pledged to assign a team of experts to work specifically with Jacksonville. That Justice team will provide technical assistance to the City through its National Gang Center (https://www.nationalgangcenter.gov), Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (http://www.ojjdp.gov/about/missionstatement.html), and Center for Faith-based and Community Initiatives (http://ojp.gov/fbnp/about.htm).
Additionally, the National League of Cities has offered to extend its partnership with the City of Jacksonville, which has actively participated in the Cities United initiative (www.citiesunited.org). In April 2013, the National League of Cities' Institute for Youth, Education, and Families selected Jacksonville as one of 11 cities to receive assistance in working to reduce disparities between black males and their peers. Following the Mayor’s recent request, the League will assist Jacksonville in convening and facilitating collaborative efforts to implement a strategic plan for preventing gang violence.
Letter to the Department of Justice
Letter to the League of Cities
Letter to the Conference of Mayors
Response from Tom Cochran, CEO of Conference of Mayors