III: Meeting the
Challenge of
the 3 No's --

  • No community commitment,
  • No office space and
  • No funding.

1. Community Organizations

While some colleagues dismissed the concept as unrealistic and overreaching, the founders forged ahead. Twenty-five agency representatives were recruited for the first meeting. 

In some respects, the goals were, indeed, unrealistic.  Different agencies were expected to volunteer to provide various components of the program. With few exceptions, that did not occur.  At each succeeding meeting, the group got smaller. 

Those that remained were, in addition to the Rikers Island representatives, the Board of Correction, The Rockefeller Group, Inc., represented by Percy Douglas, and the IBM representative, Ervin Graves. Clearly the support of the above agencies, along with occasional contributions from other agencies, made a substantial difference in what was accomplished. 

Ervin Graves,
with Friends from the beginning.

The meetings’ content included guest speakers, committee research results, naming the program, related handouts, by-laws development, analysis of concept papers, distribution of staffing patterns, salaries, achieving non-profit status, Board development, etc.

2. Student Recruitment

With all the work and activity, as of the end of 1989, FOIA still did not have an operating program.  The planning group reasoned that graduate students could provide some start-up services while at the same time, they would benefit from this unique field work experience. 

In order to acquire students, a social worker trained in social work supervision had to be available at the Island Academy School. 

  • Columbia University, through the efforts of Barbara Grodd, assigned a second-year graduate student, Alison Arthur (who today is a board member) in 1990.

  • The Kennedy School of Government in Boston through the efforts of Laura Limuli of the Board of Correction assigned another student. 

Those two students recruited mentors, developed a mentoring manual and demonstrated that mentoring combined with supportive services can have a major positive impact on these youth.  At the end of the school year, although the sample was small, not one youth who had a mentor returned to jail.

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