Michael will tell you that his favorite work is helping community-based agencies create, expand, or re-structure a program for youth. Michael has worked in and with community-based programs for more than 30 years. This work has focused on agencies serving youth in urban settings and more particularly in neighborhoods with high crime rates, concentrated poverty, and ill-equipped and ineffective school systems. Michael cut his teeth in New York City where he helped develop such programs for about a dozen years as New York City’s Juvenile Justice Administrator. He regularly visited these programs, asked the adults to leave, and discussed the quality of each program with the youth were in the program. In 1999 he became the Founding Executive Director of the Violence Institute of New Jersey at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of NJ. In that capacity, he secured funding to initiate evidence-based programs for young people. He also convened two statewide Youth Summits on Violence in order to secure a wide range of youth voices on the kinds of opportunities that would help them keep safe and pursue their dreams.
Program development consultation can be short-term or long-term. Usually, Michael holds two to three multi-hour sessions with programs to understand what the program is designed to do, how it does it, how it is funded, and what sort of ongoing quality improvement strategy is in place. He always likes to see the program in action and, if possible, speak to the youth the program is serving. Advisement follows listening and observing as well as a slew of questions. Michael’s technical assistance is always tailored to the specific needs and circumstances of the agency seeking his assistance. Aside from presenting his suggestions to staff, administrators, and sometimes to the youth themselves; Michael inevitably provides suggestions to contact others who have or who are presenting dealing with similar kinds of issues or populations. For example, in a recent consultation in high crime, high gang-conflict area in Brooklyn, the Program Director—surprisingly—noted that several of the young adults with whom he was working were transgender (he didn’t use this term but his main concern was which bathroom they should use). Michael immediately referred them to a colleague in the City who runs the largest program for LBGT youth in the country and was previously a gang interventionist. With his very long tenure in the field, Michael maintains extensive contacts with such individuals and programs.