Mark Demaio 0

Protecting our Youth Programs and our Communities

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January 7, 2009 Representative Geraldine Thompson 316 The Capitol 402 South Monroe Street Tallahassee, FL 32399-1300 RE: Prodigy Cultural Arts Budget cuts to youth intervention, prevention, diversion program Dear Representative Thompson: Orlando Neighborhood Improvement Corporation (ONIC) operates the Prodigy program which is an intervention, prevention and diversion program for at-risk youth. We have become aware of a proposal to cut 2.7 million dollars from the Prodigy Cultural Arts Program. This proposal would equate to the immediate closure of 37 Prodigy sites that serve between 200-500 at-risk youth annually per-site in 6 counties (Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk, Pasco, Manatee and Orange). I am writing to encourage legislators to continue funding for Prodigy Cultural Arts Program. Prodigy has grown over the past few years because it works! An independent evaluation by USF showed that Prodigy dramatically improved the coping skills and mental health of at-risk youth, especially girls. Research also shows that, after participating for 8 weeks in Prodigy, kids (aged 7 to 17) who had committed crimes stayed clean: 94% never violated again. There are so few programs that can boast these outcomes. The Prodigy Program is a research based structured program and operates as a prevention, intervention, and diversion program for at-risk youth ages 7 to 17. It's a proven program that serves as a transforming experience for youth in increasing their life and coping skills such as problem solving and overcoming challenges. This is accomplished by engaging them in the process of learning and creation in social purpose art with professional artists. Prodigy promotes positive identity-building, pro-social norms. The proposed cuts will mean that thousands of youth in our area, and right here in our Washington Shores and Parramore Communities where Prodigy is operated by the Orlando Neighborhood Improvement Corporation (ONIC), our children, will not have access to quality cultural arts, after school programming. Right now with gangs and delinquency on the rise, Prodigy is valued by our community as the preventive - the alternative to the streets for countless youth! Again, hundreds of youth per year are served right here in the Orlando area. Please give them the opportunity that they deserve; that we all deserve-and have a bright future in Florida. Save Prodigy today and build fewer prisons tomorrow. In conclusion, we strongly encourage the Legislature to retain the Prodigy Cultural Arts Programs Funds. There is a substantial amount of evidence to support the value of the program and look forward to continuing our obligation to our youth and the cultivation of their futures. Sincerely, The Undersigned

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