Serve & Connect, alongside the Columbia Police Department and Parks & Recreation, have launched a new initiative based in Columbia’s 29203 region. The North Columbia Youth Empowerment Initiative (NCYEI) is a comprehensive community effort intended to create a model for use across the country.

Through a grant awarded from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, intended to develop a national model for effective police and community partnerships, the (NCYEI) will continue Serve & Connect’s mission of coordination and strategic alignment among a host of groups already making a difference in the lives of neighborhood children.

“Serve & Connect believes and has witnessed that trust between communities and police is a serious issue that deeply impacts the safety and well-being of citizens and officers alike. We want to help forge a different path, which we hope may be used as a model across the United States, to create hope and opportunity for everyone,” said Kassy Alia Ray, founder & CEO of Serve & Connect.

Along with funding, the grant will bring resources, including the Wandersman Center — a research and consultation group lead by internationally acclaimed University of South Carolina researcher Dr. Abe Wandersman.

“Serve & Connect is focused on a police and community partnership — that focus compliments the mission of the Columbia Police Department which is to provide professional ethical service in the protection of our citizens, while preventing and reducing the fear of crime through problem-solving partnerships,” said Chief Skip Holbrook, City of Columbia Police Department.

Others speakers who joined the launch include Director of South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice Freddie Pough, Reverand Aaron Bishop with Grace Christian Church, and a musical performance from Every Black Girl.