SCOOPing Trenton Kids Off the Street
A SCOOP participant plays soccer.
In cities across the country, parents scramble to get their
children into programs during the all-important afterschool
hours. But in Trenton, NJ, there is no more scrambling, thanks
to SCOOP, a citywide initiative that helps thousands of kids
participate in more than 100 different activities after school
and on Saturdays.
SCOOP, which stands for Social Celebrations Opportunities
Organizations People, was launched in 2003 after city leaders
agreed that every child in Trenton should have access to activities
without being limited by transportation, lack of money, or
So the city developed SCOOP with a transportation system to
support it. The bus system links 13 centers, including 4 Safe
Havens, and uses barcoded photo identification for all children,
which helps SCOOP track their participation and progress. This
dramatic program started to take shape a few years ago, and
now every day nearly 700 children ages 7–18 are taking part
in SCOOP, and more than 3,000 youth are registered participants.
Of course, developing such a program was a tall order, but
after holding forums with youth service providers in 2001,
the city came up with a 5-year strategic plan. Trenton's Department
of Recreation, Natural Resources, and Culture became the plan
facilitator and began working on the program with community
leaders. Then, the Youth Advocacy Cabinet designed the SCOOP
The Weed and Seed strategy served as a basis for the plan,
said Francis Blanco, Director of the Department of Recreation,
Natural Resources, and Culture. Like Weed and Seed, SCOOP stresses
leveraging resources, a systematic approach, and support from
The breadth of programming that SCOOP offers spans different
age groups and interests. Programs focus on arts and culture,
education, leisure and sports, history, and special initiatives
such as drug prevention. Some examples of activities include
martial arts, African drumming, Latin dance, horseback riding,
community service, music, and basketball.
Trenton's Northwest and Southeast Weed and Seed sites play
a key role in SCOOP, particularly in the prevention and intervention
areas. The Trenton Police Department provides a safe corridor
using funding from Weed and Seed and the U.S. Department of
Housing and Urban Development. Many of the people who serve
on the Seed subcommittee are working with SCOOP as well.
Blanco is particularly pleased when kids are having a good
time and learning while doing so.
“When kids are playing chess they're having fun, but they're
also learning analytical skills,” she said. “If we can get
kids off the street, that's great, but if we can get them off
the street and teach them, that's even greater.”
| SCOOP kids get ready to dive in.
Winning the support of the community was paramount and something
of which SCOOP is proud. For example, Jim Carlucci, chairperson
of a community police advisory group, sent in a testimonial
of support for SCOOP.
“I must say I personally was impressed with the scope of the
children's activities, the attention to security and tracking
through technology, and the stated objective to bring the various
programs of organizations such as the CYO and Boys & Girls
Club into the mix,” Carlucci wrote. “This is a wonderful asset
for our community. . . . I will be sure to spread the word
every chance I get about this great program.”
With SCOOP in full swing, Blanco said she is feeling more
confident on the prevention front and is starting to focus
more on intervention with at-risk youth, including those who
are reentering the community after a stay in a juvenile justice
Blanco is enthusiastic about SCOOP's prospects of further
success. “It's very exciting,” she said. “It gives them a chance.
For further information, visit SCOOP's
Web site or contact: