Newport News emphasizes focus on youth with more than $1 billion investment

NEWPORT NEWS — Government, civic and business leaders Monday held a news conference to highlight the city’s investment in youth initiatives, including two revitalized programs focused on opportunities for safe recreation and career exploration.

The city has allocated more than $1 billion toward youth engagement in its operating and capital improvement budgets for 2024 and 2025. Mayor Phillip Jones said this includes money for recreation centers, schools and services such as mental health resources.

“The center of gravity of Newport News is our youth and I believe strongly in the importance and power of youth engagement,” Jones said during the conference, held outside Riverside College of Health Careers. He called the funding — around $500 million each this fiscal year and in 2025 — “unprecedented.”

The city has dubbed the initiative Youth T.H.R.I.V.E — transforming hearts, renewing investment and valuing empowerment.

Among the programs Jones highlighted was “Friday Night Nets,” a 3×3 basketball league at Denbigh Community Center and An Achievable Dream Tennis Center. The program began a few weeks ago and will continue through late August. The program is for children 12 and older and the events will offer free food, haircuts and other resources.

The Rev. Kevin Swann of Ivy Baptist Church said his church helps transport kids to and from the program. He said he often speaks to teens who complain there is nothing to do on a Friday night. This program fills that need. Swann said the program could also be named “The Return of the Village.”

“That’s what our young people need, the village where they see adults and people who care about them, who wish them well and who want to see them succeed.”

The city has also brought back its Youth Career Program, partnering with various businesses to provide jobs. The city will cover the $15-an-hour wage for workers and businesses will provide educational and training opportunities. Among the partner organizations are Riverside Health System and Newport News Shipbuilding.

Jennifer Shinn with Riverside said the health system has designed shadowing and educational experiences to give participants “insights into the ways to build their careers and their financial futures.” The programs will show that not all health care jobs are about direct patient care and will include pathways that don’t require many years of college education.

Xavier Beale with Newport News Shipbuilding said they expect to hire 19,000 workers over the next decade. Part of their involvement with the Youth Careers Program is encouraging more people to stay in the city.

The two programs cost about $2.2 million.

Nour Habib, nour.habib@virginiamedia.com