December 5, 2012

Wilson School Hosts Auction December 13 To Support Initiative for Trenton Youth at Risk

SUCCESS STORY: After participating in the Greater Donnelly Neighborhood Initiative, this smiling alumnus of the program was admitted to a selective high school military academy where he is class president. Shown with him are (from left) last years Service Auction Co-Chair Katie DeSalvo and GDI Board of Trustees members Joe Woodby and Princeton student Phil Hannam.

Most weekdays during the school year, a group of graduate students from Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School spend late afternoons in Trenton with teenagers at a local church. As part of the Greater Donnelly Neighborhood Initiative, they help with homework, assist with recreational activities, and foster relationships with young urban residents whose lives are a far cry from those of their mentors on the leafy Princeton campus.

On Thursday, December 13 from 4:30 to 7 p.m., members of the Princeton community will have a chance to aid the program by attending an auction in its support. Held at the Wilson School’s Robertson Hall, the fundraiser is open to the public, with refreshments, entertainment, a silent auction, and a live auction.

“This is our biggest annual event, and the culmination of a year’s worth of service,” said Logan Clark, a second-year graduate student and the co-chair of the Graduate Student Government’s Community Service Committee at the Wilson School. “For years, the program relied on federal funding, but that has been phased out. So they really depend, in large part, on proceeds that come out of this auction for their annual operating budget.”

Last year, the auction raised $15,700. The non-profit Greater Donnelly Neighborhood Initiative grew out of a U.S. Department of Justice “weed and seed” anti-crime program begun in 2007. Students from the Wilson School have volunteered with the program since its inception.

Mr. Clark said he and his colleagues work on combating gang influences, helping students with reading and writing skills, and building relationships. “There is a core group of about 30 to 40 students who come in every day after school, and we’re their main support system,” he said. “We provide a safe haven for them, where they might otherwise be drawn into negative things.”

The Wilson School students are currently canvassing shopkeepers in Princeton and at local malls for donations of auction items. The students also offer their own services as auction items, ranging from cooking lessons and dance instruction to architectural tours of the campus. Last year, several stores donated goods, and students provided such prizes as catering, chauffeuring, and private language lessons.

Students and alumni from the Donnelly program will be on hand at the event. “They’ll be there to speak and perform,” said Mr. Clark, “and mostly to express their thanks.”

Robertson Hall is on the Princeton University campus at the corner of Washington Road and Prospect Street. Call Logan Clark at (609) 954-8614 for information.