A program that begun under the administration of Mayor Giuliani to combat teen violence is facing extinction due to budget cuts.
Teen RAPP, a citywide program aimed at fighting issues of relationship violence between teenagers, domestic violence issues and even bullying.
The program, which began in 1998 and runs on a $3 million budget, is in 65 schools citywide and serves 45,000 students. Supporters say that the program is cost-effective and vital to city teenagers and should be saved.
But as City Hall decides what lives and what dies in the annual budget negotiations, Teen RAPP may fall on the wrong side of the ax when the final tally of the city’s finances is due at the end of the month.
Teen RAPP operates in only four schools in Queens — Cambria Heights Academy for New Literacies, August Martin, John Bowne and IS 10 in Astoria, but serves 5,663 students in the borough.
Lucia Rivieccio, Director of STEPS to End Family Violence, one of the three nonprofit groups that are part of Teen RAPP, said the Giuliani administration started the program to organize already existing programs across the city.
“We were asked to sort of get together and create a more formalized program and develop a curriculum,” she said.
Funded through the Human Resources Administration, Teen RAPP hires Masters-level social workers to work in schools across the city wherever their services are requested.
The program offers workshops, training for teachers and DOE staff, as well as counseling for students who may be victims of abuse or the abusers themselves. Coordinators in each school will often do classroom workshops at the request of a teacher.
“Our goal is to teach teenagers about violence and abuse, setting them up for navigating relationships in their lives,” Rivieccio said.
Bullying is now being added as part of the Teen RAPP curriculum, she said.
“What’s happening in some of the schools is we're adding extra sessions focusing on bullying,” Rivieccio explained. “We look at the roots of violence as well, such as street issues or abuse in the home.”
Zoe Entin, the coordinator of the program at Cambria Heights, said her job goes well beyond just the school she’s assigned to.
“I do community outreach as well. I go to other schools and conduct workshops for the DOE,” she said. “We really go wherever our services are requested.”
Entin, who has worked with Teen RAPP for 10 years, said that she has met with not only victims of abuse, who didn’t realize that they were in an abusive relationship, but also with teenagers who are abusers themselves. She has worked with teenagers of both genders.
She defended the cost of the program, saying that it proves cost-effective because of all the issues they seek to prevent in the future, such as from health and emotional issues abused teens might suffer as adults.
“So many things are being cut from the schools already,” Entin said. “This is so cost-effective, it doesn't make any sense to cut it.”
She noted that when broken down, the cost is $66 per student.
“I think it’s very easy to forget what it's like to be a teenager,” Entin said. “If you're not thinking about it, you're not paying attention to the fact that every image these kids are being bombarded with involves violence of some kind. I can’t express what it’s like when they see their relationship is unhealthy and they get out.”