“We’re going to build this organization from the ground up. I’m excited by this potential,” Mayor Torrance Harvey said. “We’re just organizing right now. We got to get the fathers to shoulder up.”
Dads in Unity is a new youth outreach organization that the mayor is spearheading in Newburgh. This program is looking for fathers and father figures to come together and support the youth in the Newburgh schools, serving as mentors. This is not limited to just fathers, Harvey says, you do not have to be a father to be a mentor.
This initial informational meeting follows just several days after a shooting incident that took place on November 17. In a video shown during a press conference Friday night, a 16 to 18 year old suspect fires off several shots at police in front of a school bus raising even more concern and distress for Harvey and all those who are working to help the youth and get guns off the street. “The mayor is the public advocate, I’m here to advocate for these kids. Conflicts happen,” Harvey said. “You got violence, but then you got gun violence. Why create a permanent situation called death for a temporary problem?”
Harvey also works as a teacher within the Newburgh school district and whose children have also gone through Newburgh schools, so with this program, he is hopeful it is a step in the right direction. “We got a lot of work to do,” Harvey said. “We’re trying to change the narrative. We’re trying to change our city.”
In attendance for the initial session and speaking was Isabel Rojas. Rojas is the Project Manager for Group Violence Intervention that operates out of the Orange County District Attorney’s Office. “Our office is committed to working with ending violence here in the City of Newburgh,” Rojas said. “We want to see our kids and we want to see our young adults safe in our community.” For the children that were witness to gun violence that day, Rojas raises the importance of interceding the trauma that these children experience now and later down the line. “Even though the numbers weren’t big in here, the commitment is and the foundation is being laid,” Rojas said.
Newburgh Police Commissioner José Gomérez and Sergeant Daniel D’Elicio also made an appearance at the informational session in support of the program and Harvey. Both gentlemen are not only police officers but fathers in the city. “It (Dads in Unity) is something that is very commendable. I do believe that it’s something that needs to be addressed at home as well,” Gomérez said. “From a father’s perspective, I do believe that it’s a good thing.” Gomérez hopes that this program will remain consistent and relevant rather than fade away in time. “I do invite all the parents, the father, the school, the churches, the neighborhood, everybody as a whole to join us in this collaborative effort to make our city better,” Gomérez said.
As someone who grew up in the city, D’Elicio fully supports this program, continuing to address the problems with youth. “This is not just a police problem, this is also a community problem, a problem for parents. It’s affecting us greatly,” D’Elicio said.
Further questions about the program can be asked by calling the mayor’s office.