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Danville, VA Local Government News and Announcements

Posted on: December 29, 2023

Second class completes credible messenger training

The second class of the City of Danville’s credible messenger program has completed the first phase of training, which included learning various tools and strategies to guide at-risk youths toward productive lives.  

Credible messengers are individuals with relevant life experiences whose role is to help youth transform attitudes and behaviors around violence. 

“What we are doing with this program is reaching out to individuals who thought they could not be a part of the work that is being done (to mentor at-risk youths),” Robert David, violence prevention manager for the City of Danville, said. “Through this program you can become part of improving your own community and improving the city.”

Shalontay Adams and Cindi Poteat completed the first phase of training earlier this month.

Adams is a student at Danville Community College, where she is studying criminal justice. She plans to complete her degree and use the credible messenger training to become a legal social worker. She has sons that have participated in Project Imagine.

“I like what Project Imagine brings to the community, so I wanted to be a part of it,” Adams said. “I want to help our youth develop a positive perception of what they can bring to the community.”

Poteat has served as a youth advocate and liaison for 25 years. She currently works as a care coordinator for the REACH program, which addresses health disparities by connecting citizens with resources and services.

“I am so excited about this program,” Poteat said. “The struggles for many youths, and their parents as well, are real. This mentoring program can meet them where they are. That is why I am so excited.”

The credible messenger training is an initiative of the City of Danville’s Project Imagine community violence collaborative. Training is held quarterly. The first class graduated earlier this year and consisted of three Returning Citizens (previously incarcerated).

David said a trained credible messenger can be employed by governmental, educational, and non-profit agencies to serve as mentors to youths, outreach workers, and violence interrupters. A violence interrupter is an individual that engages with citizens in the community to stop retaliation following a shooting.

The first phase consists of 12 hours of training in the following areas:

  • Asset development for youths, which involves conducting strength-based assessments using the Clifton Strengths tools to guide youths toward productive lives. River District Consulting will provide this training.
  • Childhood adversity and how experiences affect a youth’s development and their response to stress. Danville Pittsylvania Community Services will provide this training using the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) course.
  • Resilience training, which teaches youths how to move from failure to success. David will provide this training using a curriculum that he has developed.
  • Effecting change as a credible messenger. Curtis Artis, violence prevention assistant manager for Project Imagine, will provide this training.
  • Certification in “Stop the Bleed” first aid. The Danville Area Training Center will provide this training.

Adams and Poteat said they plan to participate in the second phase of training, which consists of shadowing Project Imagine outreach workers for a minimum of 20 hours.

“With these 20 hours, they can go to a mentor agency or school system and show that they have training,” David said. “We have a lot of mentor agencies that deal with high-risk youth. So, there are a lot of opportunities.”

This workforce development initiative for returning citizens is an expansion of Project Imagine, which has received national recognition. In November, David received the 2023 Youth Workforce Professional of the Year Award from the National Association of Workforce Development Professionals. 

In January of this year, David was named among the “Top 100 Influencers in Local Government" in 2022 by the nonprofit Engaging Local Government Leaders.  

In 2020, David was named a winner of the Frederic Milton Thrasher Award by the National Gang Crime Research Center. The award recognizes his accomplishments in gang prevention and intervention.

The collaborative received the President’s Award from the Virginia Municipal League in October 2019.

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