MOUNT KISCO, N.Y. -- Neighbors Link recently teamed up with the North American Family Institute (NAFI) and the Westchester County Public Safety Department in an effort to facilitate dialogue and establish trust between Mount Kisco's immigrant community and the police.
This groundbreaking six-week program culminated in a ‘graduation’ on Tuesday, Dec. 13 at the Neighbors Link site in Mount Kisco.
Neighbors Link joined with NAFI to design the Youth and Police Initiative (YPI) Parent program to ensure safe, engaging communities for both the police and the parents with their children, according to a release from Neighbors Link. It is a “trust-building” dialogue designed for immigrant families and the local police departments, the release said.
The six-part YPI Parent Program breaks down stereotypes, offers a “new” picture of both police and the community by using interesting exercises and activities to open communication; for example, one session involves role-playing where the children played police officers pulling over a car with an immigrant family inside. The immigrant family was played by the police officers.
The Youth and Police Initiative has delivered a similar training to 25 communities across the country over the past decade. The program is typically delivered only with youth and police.
The YPI Parent Program aligns well with Neighbors Link's mission to engage parents and children together. It also builds on the cultural awareness training Neighbors Link previously delivered to 30 Mount Kisco police and 400 County police officers, who received the training through the Department of Public Safety of Westchester County Police.
Nine families participated in the pilot program; their children are ages 11-15. The purpose of the pilot program was to try out its effectiveness and start a track record to explore funding opportunities, the release said. The eventual goal is to hold these programs across Westchester County and beyond in communities with large immigrant populations.
Some of the program goals are to promote mutual respect between police and parents by encouraging them all to share their personal stories and preconceived notions about the other; to identity similarities between parents and police participants; and to create a safe learning and trustworthy environment where participants can take risks in expressing their feelings and ideas.
Deputy County Executive Kevin Plunkett attended the Dec. 13 graduation and said, “The County Executive is very pleased to see our Public Safety officers work in collaboration with Neighbors Link and NAFI. It is important to establish the trust necessary so that law enforcement and community members can work together.”
Other notable guests who attended the graduation included Joseph Yasainski, deputy commissioner of Westchester Public Safety; Susan Ostrofsky, principal Fox Lane Middle School; Kevin McGuire, commissioner of Westchester County Department of Social Services; Paul Stasaitis, captain, Westchester County Public Safety; and Jim Isenberg, executive director, NAFI NY.
Neighbors Link is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit community center with a mission to strengthen the whole community through the healthy integration of immigrants.