Young people who committed crimes in Albany County have completed a training and classroom program geared toward those at-risk. A ceremony was held Thursday at the County Office Building.
"Well, with the next couple weeks, the Painter's trade, the finishing trade union, that was really cool, and I have a lot of experience in painting so I would like to definitely get into that. In the next few weeks they're having an interview that I plan on going to." Harvey Robinson wants to give back to the community that gave him a second chance — a young man's life turned around thanks to Project Growth.
Launched in 2013, Project Growth was the first program of its kind in New York, partnering with assorted trade unions, giving teens who had gotten into trouble with authorities an opportunity to work and learn different skills. Albany County Executive Dan McCoy spoke before Robinson and five fellow graduates. "The way we sentence people, the way we incarcerate people, it's not working. And to me, to give someone of your age an opportunity to right your own ship, to see light at the end of the tunnel, that's what it's about. To learn from your mistakes. That's what it's about. But not have that burden going on for the rest of your life."
Program participants between the ages of 19 and 21 complete four weeks of classroom learning and practical hands-on training with skilled trade union workers. They're paid stipends, which goes toward restitution for their crimes. "It was just a really great opportunity to learn, meet new people, and to help me pay off my restitution that I owed for getting into crime a couple of summers ago when I was younger."
With the lifeline Project Growth provided, Robinson has a fresh outlook, confident in his ideas and abilities, excited about who he is and what he can do for others. "I have a project that I want to speak to the County Executive about because, like I said, I like art and I want to do an art mural at Washington Park. So I'm gonna talk to him about that, see if I can get that ball rolling and just get my name out there, y'know?"
McCoy told the grads he couldn't be more optimistic about them. "We've had people leave this and go on to different trades. We've had members of unions that have talked to this class that have been in your seat, that were lost, didn't think they would ever make it in life, and they turned their lives around. To know that there's people out there that want to see you to be successful, to change your life. This is an opportunity that you have."