👦 A free camp for Cumberland County kids impacted by violence opens in 2024

👧 It's made possible by a million dollar federal grant

👨‍👩‍👦 The county is one of the poorest in the states with a high violent crime rate

Thanks to $ 1 million in federal funding, officials in Cumberland County along with a network of other organizations will launch a free summer camp for kids and young adults impacted by violence.

“I can’t take the credit for this,” Cumberland County Prosecutor Jennifer Webb-McRae said. "This was born out of a relationship with Inspira Health Network, and several community groups including Life Worth Living, United Advocacy Group, Gateway Wellness, The John Watson Institute, and the Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office."

She said they’ve been working hard for years to improve the outcomes for its youth and steer them away from the juvenile justice system. Before the launch of the camp next year, the funding will be used for the Cumberland County Youth Violence Cessation Initiative.

Cumberland County is one of the poorest counties in the state, Webb-McRae said. On the kids’ count list, oftentimes with infant mortality, kids living in poverty, referrals for abuse and neglect, the county tends to tick up higher in relation to that poverty, she added.

Also, the violent crime rate in Cumberland County is almost double the national average, which is certainly related to the county’s poverty, Webb-McRae said.

“We are super excited that we’re going to be able to target young people age 14 to 24 and one of the outcomes will be the camp in 2024,” Webb-McRae said.

Earlier this month, U.S. Senator Bob Menendez joined Webb-McRae and other community partners to announce the funding for the launch of the no-cost summer camp.

What is the camp all about?

The free camp is set to open next summer. While the camp is for young children starting at age 10, Webb-McRae said there’s also another method to their madness.

They are going to be working with older kids aged 18 to 24 next year leading up to the camp to provide them with skills, work training, and work opportunities. They will be the counselors at the camp where pro-social activities and other positive things for youth will be provided the camp next summer, she said.

The county is still in the early planning stages and they are waiting for the budget to be approved. But Webb-McRae hopes to have some workshops for capacity building for the youth-serving organizations that the county will be working with to facilitate the camps.

During the camps, kids will hopefully learn family skills, life skills, and peer support as well as de-escalation skills, mediation skills, and mentoring and outreach for kids.

“Part of the solution to reimagining public safety is to start working with schools and other organizations like mental health and peer support so that things that usually lead to lack of education, failure to address mental health and trauma, and sometimes treating the discipline, but not treating what causes kids to act out, we can hopefully disrupt and get kids on the right track by providing mentors, peer support so they can be their best healthy self,” Webb-McRae said.

The hope is that with this free camp, the county will be able to wrap existing services and leverage existing child-serving organizations to meet the needs of the most at-risk kids, she said.

She hopes to provide kids these pro-social activities and enrichment and find stable income sources in order to keep the camp going for years to come.

“My prayer and my desire and what I work towards every day is 30 years from now we will have the solution, even in times when you have poverty to use the resources that we have in a smart way to re-imagine public safety,” Webb-McRae said.

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