Take control with Project C.O.P.E.
Project Communities Organizing for Prevention and Empowerment (C.O.P.E.) began in 2005 on a five year federal grant awarded to Montclair State’s Department of Family and Child Studies. The mission statement on the website reads, “Project C.O.P.E.’s mission is to increase the capacity for integrated prevention activities throughout the Paterson community and decrease the rates of HIV infection and substance abuse among Paterson’s youth.”
Program directors and Montclair State University professors Dr. Robert Reid and Dr. Pauline Garcia-Reid started to Project C.O.P.E. decrease the rates of sexually transmitted infections, HIV/AIDS and substance abuse among youth in Paterson. Project C.O.P.E. increases prevention activities and educational opportunities for at-risk youth, especially those in the African-American or LGBTQ community, or Hispanic/Latino individuals.
Project C.O.P.E. uses prevention programs that have been endorsed by the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The programs are targeted to individual communities in an appropriate fashion, as Paterson has one of the highest rates in the state for substance abuse and HIV/AIDS infection.
“My experience has been vastly rewarding working with the community I grew up in. Both Project C.O.P.E. and the Paterson Coalition Against Substance Abuse have been doing great work in the city of Paterson, and these grants have given me personally the opportunity of working with a place that still feels like home to me,” said Andriana Herrera, program manager.
Project C.O.P.E. serves about 400-500 young adults and adolescents annually. It works in conjunction with the Department of Family and Child Studies at Montclair State University to provide workshops and information about substance abuse, sexual risk and gang violence. So far, the project has successfully implemented model substance abuse and HIV/AIDS prevention protocols in Paterson.
“Showing the kids a different path, one of a college graduate, technical school or whatever their heart desires, and making them realize their goals are achievable, is the best feeling in the world,” said Herrera.
The project was recently refunded in October 2016. “Our members have also been superb,” Herrera praised her fellow team members that made Project C.O.P.E. possible.
Project C.O.P.E. focuses on the importance of education, testing and treatment of HIV. It also promotes antiretroviral medication that can be used in HIV prevention. In addition, Project C.O.P.E. challenges attitudes and beliefs that contribute to the stigma surrounding HIV.
“When I tell them that I too grew up in Paterson, they light up,” said Herrera on sharing her story with youth.
Learn more about Project C.O.P.E. at projectcope.org or visit on Facebook at facebook.com/MSUProjectCOPE/.