A Health and Safety Initiative Begun in 1996

The origins of the Robert Wood Johnson’s (RWJ) Urban Health Initiative can be traced to the 1992 Los Angeles riots. At that time, RWJ, whose mission was to improve health and health care, recognized that the nation’s biggest cities were underrepresented in grants. In order to correct this situation, the concept of an Urban Health Initiative was developed specifically to address the health and safety of children across an entire urban area.

RWJ developed a fresh approach in the granting process, including the focus and length of grants. RWJ researched and identified 20 cities that might be good candidates, inviting them to apply for funding under the Urban Health Initiative; 16 responded. The list was narrowed to 13 cities, which were visited by teams of Foundation staff and consultants.

A major factor in choosing Detroit was the potential for success. “If the program succeeded there, the group felt, it would send a very encouraging message to the rest of the country about the potential for progress even under the most difficult circumstances.”¹

The development grant allowed the eight cities to develop plans and partnerships for long-term initiatives. At the end of that period, five cities – Baltimore, Detroit, Oakland, Philadelphia and Richmond – received implementation grants in order to improve the health and safety of youth.

Detroit’s initiative, begun in 1996, was known as The Youth Connection. From its inception, its purpose was to create “systems change” or establishing lasting change in policy, funding and procedures of various institutions in order that 50% of the school-aged population in Detroit, Mt. Clemens and Pontiac are involved in quality after-school programs.

In 2003, the Youth Connection became a non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation called Mayor’s Time. The initiative is a public and private partnership on behalf of children and youth, with the Mayor of Detroit championing the involvement of city departments and employees focusing attention of the community on the importance of after-school programming.

Under the leadership of our Board of Directors, Mayor’s Time met our goals for increased after-school participation in the City of Detroit in 2005. We have since expanded our vision to ensure that 75% of Detroit students participating in after-school.

In October of 2008, our initiative changed our name back to The Youth Connection to better articulate the new program offerings and our expanded mission. Through a grant from the Detroit Workforce Development Department and the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth, The Youth Connection expanded The Youth Connection Career Academies to include youth year-round in our program.

As we continue to work to ensure the health and safety of our children, The Youth Connection would like to thank the cities, schools, agencies, businesses and after-school program providers who have been a part of our success.

¹ “The Origins of the Urban Health Initiative,” one of a series of occasional papers by the National Program Office of the Urban Health Initiative, Seattle.




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