Questions raised about UNCW working to solve Wilmington's gang p - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

Questions raised about UNCW working to solve Wilmington's gang problem

UNCW staffers say the university has been working diligently to build community partnerships. (Source: WECT) UNCW staffers say the university has been working diligently to build community partnerships. (Source: WECT)
WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) -

Exactly three months ago Tuesday, Wilmington city leaders asked UNCW to take the initiative in bringing the community together to combat gang violence. At the time, community members like Atiba Johnson questioned the move.

"Like I said earlier, we can meet all day long, but without actions, we're just meeting," said Johnson back in April.

Johnson runs the OOPS (Offering Optimistic Plans for Success) Foundation, a Wilmington organization that offers educational training and GED courses to everyday people.

After Johnson questioned the university's community involvement, UNCW staffers started listening.

"The first person I talked to when that meeting was over was Atiba Johnson," said Jenni Harris, Assistant to the Chancellor for Community Partnerships.

"[Atiba] spoke up and very honestly said ‘Why would you ask UNCW to do that because they're not involved in this community?'" Harris explained.

Jenni Harris said she has been working diligently on building community partnerships. She cited her collection of 120 community organizations she's spoken to, visited, and even formed official partnerships with this summer.

One of those organizations is Atiba Johnson's OOPS Foundation. The organization recently partnered with UNCW. Johnson said the university has been doing a better job of communicating with the community.

"They've stood firm in what they said. They've done everything they said they were gonna do," Johnson claimed. "They've done the research. They're partnering with grassroots organizations such as myself and so far it's on the right track."

Harris said she will work to find different funding avenues for organizations and continue to build partnerships.

"It just depends on what the recommendation is and what's needed," the university representative added.

Jenni Harris said the university plans on staying on the right track.

"Within 12 to 18 months, there should be no question that things have been accomplished," Harris stated.

She said she will present the work that has already been done to the Wilmington City Manager in early August.

Harris said hosting more meetings won't be the solution UNCW is developing to combating this problem.

Copyright 2014 WECT. All rights reserved.

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