Chester Leaders Attend City’s Safe Summer Summit

A cross-section of Chester leaders from non-profit, religious, business, and government sectors heeded Mayor Stefan Roots’ call to come together on June 19 to find ways to better serve the city’s youth this summer. Mayor Roots’ Safe Summer Summit had two goals: 1) compile the summer youth activities and programs already planned / available, and 2) collaborate to address gaps in activities and resources.

More than 70 people packed the Community Room at Chester City Hall to discuss everything from better communication and coordination to improving access to programs through transportation. The Summit was part of Mayor Roots’ Safe Summer 2024 initiative, which followed an uptick in homicides and violence among juveniles during the first six months of the year.

The Chester Police Department announced in June that it would redouble its efforts to enforce a curfew for juveniles from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. during the summer months, but Mayor Roots and other city officials are also seeking to provide positive alternatives and opportunities for growth, development and recreation.

This included creation of a website to provide information on existing programs and the creation of a Safe Summer Resource Guide.

“This is the first time that I know of that the city has stood up to be the clearing house for all things related to child safety for the summer,” Mayor Roots said. “What you see around us today are organizations, nonprofits, churches, and organizations of all sorts. They want our children to know there are programs. They want parents to know their children will be safe.”

The Mayor added that the city’s first Safe Summer Summit was a natural fit for the Juneteenth holiday. “This day symbolizes new beginnings, making it ideal for launching new initiatives aimed at positive change,” he said.

I can’t tell you how overwhelmed I am to see the community getting together like this

Mayor Stefan Roots

Besides the civic organizations, Congresswoman Mary Gay Scanlon (PA-05), Delaware County District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer, and Pennsylvania State Representative Carol Kazeem attended, along with Chester City Councilmembers Portia West, Tameka Gibson, and Shy’Quan Davis, and Chester Police Commissioner Steven Gretsky.

The two-hour session was moderated by Dr. Marina Barnett, assistant provost for civic engagement at Widener University, and Ulysses “Butch” Slaughter, an author, filmmaker and entrepreneur. Participants were asked to visualize what brought them joy in their own childhoods, and then they broke into small groups to discuss ways to better serve the city’s youth.

The Mayor’s office collected all of the ideas and will work to see what can be implemented now and what can be done in the future. The clear message was that there are many things for children to do already, but a lack of communication and coordination means many families aren’t aware of the offerings. At the same time, it was also evident that many of Chester’s summer youth programs are at capacity and cannot add more children. There is still a lot of need and opportunity for new youth activities and programs in Chester, so Mayor Roots wants to support new initiatives however he can.

“I can’t tell you how overwhelmed I am to see the community getting together like this,” Mayor Roots said. “We don’t have a lot of money, but you’re seeing 70 people in this room who want to create a true community environment for our children. We need to let parents know that there are places for their children to have fun this summer. And that’s what this is all about. Bringing joy back to the city and having fun and getting to know each other.”

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