Anti-gang Focus and Outreach for Reduction & Community Education (A-F.O.R.C.E)

As our City continues to grow, we must take the time to address evolving concerns that may negatively impact our progress. Some of these issues and concerns require special attention and a plan. Substance misuse, underage drinking, and gang affiliation are among these few issues. Because of our successful groundwork we are acknowledge and working alongside federal representatives to complete an Anti-Gang Strategy Comprehensive Model which is formulated through the Department of Justice. The City of Rahway was visited by federal site monitors, who met with our youth at “The Cherry Pit,” as they were hard at work repainting the inside of this new community involvement center. This recognition, by National Experts and Federal Representatives, is a testament to the community mobilization, awareness, and readiness our community attains to battle these stigmatized issues.

Our Rahway Prevention Coalition has made great strides combating this undeniable drug epidemic by engaging our youth at a very young age. For example, we recently trained 4 staff members at the JFK Community Center to hone their student’s skills on making positive decisions at a young age. Further, we now have two elementary schools participating in a peer mediation program and over 90 students are involved in training provided by the New Jersey State Bar Association. Our elementary school students are exploring conflict resolution skills and practicing open communication respecting rules of confidentiality as done in the court system. In our high school, students across the board are receiving required community service hours by participating in community wide initiatives to decrease access to underage drinking and substance misuse.

This year, the Rahway Prevention Coalition developed a new partnership with Heroes and Cool kids, where chosen High School Students are trained by former professional athletes and understanding the importance of a healthy life style. These students then “pay it forward” and educate our elementary school students to promote the same mission.

The programming does not end with our youth. Our responsible business owners in our City participate in Training for Intervention Procedures and comply with checking identification guidelines. We are proud of our responsible tavern owners who have participated in these activities and are happy to say that over 35 servers have been trained for free in the past year and passed the statewide course on responsible serving. Additionally, the RPC partnered with local real estate agents to give them free pill lock boxes to safety store prescription medications while conducting open houses. Having these trained professionals in our community is extremely beneficial to keep us protected in every industry.

We are proud how our City has responded to an epidemic that has impacted our country as a whole and are ambitious to prevent arising issues. Our new Anti-Gang Strategy is currently in its assessment phase to accurately conduct our needs assessment. We are hopeful our strategies will be effective and have already used our momentum to create a new youth community involvement center, called The Cherry Pit. On 59 East Cherry Street, The City of Rahway’s Artist of the Year, Jeffrey Drylewicz, used his time to brand this initiative and make it Rahway’s Own.

The City’s administrative staff met with local youth and invited them to participate in its renovation so they may be involved in the developmental stage of this project so their voices and ideas are heard. Just last week, 21 students attended a paint session at The Cherry Pit where they were responsible for making this space their very own. They were given a unique opportunity to meet with our Federal Site Visitors from the Department of Justice, a network connection that cannot be duplicated. Our next step, is to invite the Rahway Prevention Coalition Youth Task Force Members to participate in “Chalk Talk” where they may design an entire wall within this space to talk about programs they want to occur and create their own calendar of activities. Our youth’s time commitment will be honored through receiving required community service hours and already to date they have earned more than 200 hours on this project alone.

Already, our youth has plans to organize a Spoken Word Night, host end of year sports picnics, student government meetings, ping pong tournaments, leadership plenaries, and video game nights. By giving our youth this type of experience, we are providing them the creative outlet and leadership skills they will use to steer away from potential negative influences. It is the Rahway Prevention Coalition’s goal to create a sustainable project. The time, location, and youth may change but the spirit of the model will remain the same, but we need your help to reach this project’s maximum potential.

The Cherry Pit

The Rahway Prevention Coalition in collaboration with the Rahway Arts and Business Partnership is spearheading a community initiative to provide our City with a unique experience entitled: The Cherry Pit.

Located at 59 East Cherry Street, local artist, Jeff Drylewicz, who is the art teacher at Grover Cleveland Elementary School, created a Rahway branding mural to kick-off this initiative and transform this venue into an inviting community meeting space.

The goal of The Cherry Pit initiative is to serve our community with an alternate meeting space, which will display local artwork, be the center for “Chalk Talk,” a small acoustic performing space, a team building exercise camp venue, and a weekend fringe market. The philosophy behind these few examples of activity is to convene our youth and adult community members into a space, which highlights positive influences.

You may ask yourself, what is: “Chalk Talk?” This will be an environmental strategy, for those who enter The Cherry Pit, to use an open space visual public forum to discuss topics in the format of asking questions, concerns, giving thanks, and expressing gratitude.

Currently, the steering committee is seeking suitable display items volunteers to help assist in this project to create a welcoming space for all members of our City.

For more information, please contact: Anne Rowan at