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Press Release

U.S. Attorney’s Office Joins Launch of High School Mentoring Program Targeting Violence and Substance Use Prevention

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Rhode Island

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The United States Attorney’s Office is joining with three Project Safe Neighborhoods community outreach partners in the launch of a 20-week in-school mentoring program for students at Blackstone Academy Charter School. The program focuses on community leadership in nonviolence and substance use prevention. The launch of the program this week coincides with the recognition of National Mentoring Month.

Coordinated by LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation) Rhode Island, students assume the roles of community leaders (Mayor, Police Chief, School Principal etc.), and, working alongside mentors from LISC, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Nonviolence Institute, and Project Weber/RENEW, students  prepare proposals on Nonviolence and Substance Use Prevention. They will engage in training on Nonviolence and anti-stigma, and hear from people working on the frontlines to end cycles of violence and substance abuse. Students will use what they learn in the classroom and through direct action serving the community to build solutions for a healthier city. They will deliver their proposals to elected and civic leaders.

“Fighting the devastation visited on our communities by gun violence and substance abuse means more than just effective prosecution strategies,” said U.S. Attorney Zachary A. Cunha. “It means building effective community partnerships to mentor, support, and provide alternatives before lives and communities are destroyed.  Our office is proud to join in this critical effort.” 

Becki Marcus, Assistant Program Officer at LISC, said, “LISC is thrilled to provide coordinating support for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Project Weber/ RENEW, and the Nonviolence Institute to teach a class on Community Leadership in Nonviolence and Substance Use Prevention at Blackstone Academy Charter School. LISC is the backbone agency of the Pawtucket Central Falls Health Equity Zone, a community-driven collaborative devoted to addressing social determinants of health. We are excited for this class to engage youth as visionaries and leaders of change to build solutions for nonviolence and health in their communities.

"The Nonviolence Institute (NVI) is very excited to have an opportunity to work with Blackstone Academy in our mission to spread the nonviolence message through a Nonviolence Educational Training curriculum. NVI believes that we are all part of the solution, and it is the language, principles, steps, and components that connect and build our Beloved Community by spreading and sharing the practice of Nonviolence,” Said Cedric Huntley, Executive Director of NVI.

“Much of Project Weber/RENEW's (PWR) work is focused on harm reduction and evidence-based approaches to combat the overdose epidemic through needle exchange, Narcan distribution, and advocating for other proven efforts like harm reduction centers. However, we know through our own lives that the opposite of addiction is connection: we aim to foster this connection with people through our shared lived experiences,” noted Ashley Perry, Pawtucket Program Manager. “At PWR we use our voices and experiences to advocate for better systems to treat people with dignity and respect, and work to move forward from counterproductive policies. We are so excited to work with the next generation and have the youth at Blackstone Academy learn more about our experiences so they can do the crucial advocacy and work to help address violence and overdose in their communities.”

Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN) is the centerpiece of the Department of Justice’s violent crime reduction efforts.  PSN is an evidence-based program proven to be effective at reducing violent crime. Through PSN, a broad spectrum of stakeholders work together to identify the most pressing violent crime problems in the community and develop comprehensive solutions to address them. As part of this strategy, PSN focuses enforcement efforts on the most violent offenders and partners with locally based prevention and reentry programs for lasting reductions in crime.

For additional information about United States Attorney’s Office’s PSN outreach programs visit or contact Community Engagement & Crime Prevention Coordinator David Neill at (401) 709-5035 or at



Jim Martin
(401) 709-5357

Updated January 26, 2022

Project Safe Neighborhoods
Community Outreach
Press Release Number: 22-17