It’s no secret that Atlanta’s Westside is on the rise. Just blocks away from Coca-Cola’s global headquarters, the iconic Mercedes Benz stadium stands out as just one of the symbols to represent recent growth and revitalization efforts. While this progress is easy to see, initiatives like The At-Promise Center are working to ensure that community building and breaking cycles of generational poverty are also a focus of these efforts.

Born initially from The Atlanta Police Foundation’s efforts to reduce juvenile crime as a diversion center, The At- Promise Center has proven to be so much more. After opening its doors in August 2017, the state-of-the-art learning and community facility has created pathways for youth and a gathering place for residents, group activities and other community purposes.

The decision to open doors to all youth, regardless of background, has paved the way to address community challenges proactively.

Isaac
Isaac, 17, is living proof of ways the center has created tremendous impact in only a year’s time. He admits he was reluctant when his mom asked him to check out the new At-Promise Center that had opened in the space her childhood elementary school had once occupied. But after he did make the decision to visit with a group of friends, like many others, he saw something special.

“We’ve seen a lot of different programs that don’t offer what the At-Promise Center does," he said. "It’s different from school. There are people here that take the time to figure out what’s going on and figure out what it is that you really need.”

Now a senior in high school, Isaac jokingly says, “I’ll be here every day until they get sick of me.”

Isaac has had two internships during his time at the center, and says his recent experience working with Trees Atlanta helped him discover a passion for environmental science. As he sets his sights on the future, Isaac says the center has also helped him and his friends prepare to apply to college. After college, Isaac says one of his dreams is to open his own non-profit.

“It has a lot to do with here, they’ve prepared us for opportunities like that.”

Block Party

Since opening, the center has more than doubled its initial goal of reaching 150 youth. The center has seen a recidivism rate of only 2 percent of its members, and 92 percent of high school seniors in the program have graduated.

In addition to success metrics, youth programs director Aaron Nicholson says the behavioral changes he’s witnessed are another proof point for the center. 

“What really surprised me and something we’ve noticed over the past year is that youth that have been suspended from school stick around the center. They want to do whatever they can do to get back in. Youth that have been kicked out of school are usually happy to go home and run the streets. That shows me from a high level that this is really working and youth want this.”

The ambitious achievements of Atlanta Police Foundation, civic partners, and youth members are shinning a new light to the next generation’s potential to write the next chapter Atlanta’s Westside.

“I believe that if you look at this community on the West Side, you see a community that wanted more. More resources and an outlet for their youth. Youth realize this isn’t just a place for ‘bad kids’ — it’s a place to better themselves and get help with their future. I’ve been in Atlanta for over 20 years, but all of my work in youth development has been outside the city of Atlanta. So it makes me proud to be able to say my work is in the city I travel in and out of every day,” says Nicholson.