Greensboro trip

Danville's Project Imagine grads and their sponsors before boarding a bus bound for Greensboro for the day. 

Sixteen graduates of Danville's Project Imagine boarded a bus Friday bound for Greensboro.

The group was off to visit the International Civil Rights Museum, as well as tour the North Carolina A&T State University campus.

Accompanying the group was Danville Mayor Alonzo Jones, Danville NAACP President Tommy Bennett, community activist Mary Barnes, Youth Gang and Violence Prevention Coordinator Robert David, as well as several staff members.

Five graduates could not attend because they were working, said David.

The idea behind the trip was to allow the youth to see that there is a world larger than Danville, as many have never left the city, said David of the youth, who ranged in age from 13-19.

"There is a big world out there," said David.

To earn a seat on the bus, the youth were selected based on criteria that included graduating from the Imagine program, as well as moving toward specific personal goals, said David.

Youth Coordinator Curtis Artis said the trip was a good opportunity for the youth and "they earned it."

Jamarie Gwynn, 17, was one of the students headed to Greensboro.

Gwynn, a junior at George Washington High School and graduate of Project Imagine, was eager to visit the museum, but also wanted to check out the university as a possibility for college-level basketball.

After the trip, Bennett described it as "breathtaking," as it gave many of the youth their first opportunity to leave Danville. While at the university, the group spoke with two graduates of A&T, an engineer and an attorney.

"They were excited. They asked questions about college," he said.

While at the Civil Rights Museum, the group also happened to meet up with classmates of the Greensboro Four, who were four young black men participated in a sit-in protest at a Greensboro Woolworth's lunch counter during the 1960s, said Bennett.

"We couldn't have timed it any better," he said.

Several sponsors helped make the trip a reality and they include: The Danville Chapter of the NAACP, Tammy Wright Warren with W&W Luxury Limousine Service, the Danville Redevelopment and Housing Authority, Fisher and Watkins Funeral Home and George and Clarissa Knight.

Project Imagine is a community violence intervention program for youth age 21 and under. To graduate the program, the youth complete a 15-hour orientation using various assessment and readiness interventions, obtain full or part-time employment, work one-on-one with an outreach worker, and receive educational assistance, sports-based youth development and apprenticeship opportunities.

The youth are referred to the program by community members, the Department of Juvenile Justice, Danville Public Schools and other city entities.

The idea is that the program creates a positive "image" in the mind of the youth so that he or she can "Imagine" a life without gangs or crime.

The program recently celebrated its sixth class of graduates.

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