HARRISBURG, PA — Senator Vincent Hughes, State Senate Democratic Appropriations Chair, is celebrating the announcement Thursday of an available $1.3 million for at-risk youth in Pennsylvania through the First Chance Trust Fund. Legislation to establish the First Chance Trust Fund was first introduced by Sen. Hughes in 2017 in collaboration with Senator Jay Costa, former Senators Pat Browne and Richard Alloway, and the former Secretary of Corrections, John Wetzel. The legislation received bipartisan support.
“This program will change lives. It’s the first of its kind in the country,” said Senator Hughes. “These investments will make a difference for kids who need financial support for college, mentorship, or a little bit of help believing in their ability to do more.”
The grant program will fund scholarships and support services for young people who are living and learning in regions of the Commonwealth that have statistically higher high school dropout rates, incarceration rates, or high crime rates as identified by the PA Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD).
“Every day we hear leaders agree that something needs to be done to stop gun violence, to help children with mental health and trauma, and to address the long-term effects of poverty. This grant program is a solution that gets ahead of these issues. Let’s help kids before they turn to crime. Let’s help students before they decide they’ll never be able to go to college. Let’s give them hope while we can still reach them.”
Adverse childhood experiences like having a parent or guardian go to jail or growing up in areas with high crime and gun violence can have lasting negative effects on the well-being of children. It often keeps them in a cycle of mirroring behaviors they become familiar with. The CDC notes, “Children growing up with toxic stress may have difficulty forming healthy and stable relationships. They may also have unstable work histories as adults and struggle with finances, jobs, and depression throughout life. These effects can also be passed on to their own children.”
Investing in educational opportunities and reinforcing support systems and mentorship programs for at-risk students, which includes children of victims, gives these young people a chance to pave their own path and break generational cycles of poverty and crime.
The First Chance Trust Fund is supported by contributions from contractors that provide services to the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) if the contract dollar threshold is expected to exceed $5 million annually. Pennsylvanians can also make private donations to support the fund through PCCD’s website.
News about open applications for the First Chance Trust Fund was shared by Lt. Governor Austin Davis and the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency (PCCD) last week.
PCCD has opened the 30-day application window with a Letter of Intent process, which can be found on the First Chance Trust Fund webpage. Eligible community-based organizations are encouraged to apply now through June 1, 2023. More information about the program and eligibility are available online and within the Letter of Intent.
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