"When I look into the eyes of the kids in my neighborhood I know there’s promise, and I don’t think there are enough people trying to bring out that promise."
We all know the vital role after school programs can play in the education and development of children – but what happens after after school? Those are the hours that Kobi Dennis and his Project Night Vision are trying to fill. “I named it that because I was letting people know what I can see at night that other people can’t – the problems that go on after four o’clock,” he explains.
It began under the umbrella of the Providence Housing Authority in 2009. “The program’s focus is to empower and educate – but we do it through intramural sports,” he says. This provides a gateway to things like panel discussions on issues affecting the neighborhood, and teaches kids to respect and engage authority figures, like the state troopers and National Guardsman who often volunteer their time.
The program now operates out of Camden Avenue’s Madeline Rogers Recreation Center four nights a week from 5:30-9pm. It has earned the endorsements of the Providence Parks and Recreation Department, the State Police, Providence Police and City Hall, and has expanded to include a Woonsocket chapter.
Though he’s currently operating with a handful of volunteers and community partners on a shoestring budget, Dennis is optimistic that Project Night Vision can become a vital program around the city and state. He hopes to expand it to all the rec centers in Providence, and believes it can be tailored to the needs of individual communities; he points to Providence, where the focus is keeping kids away from gangs, and Woonsocket, where combating truancy is the priority, as examples.
In the immediate future, Dennis is striving to simply produce the kind of demonstrable results that can attract funding and institutional support – and, of course, to give kids from the old neighborhood a better chance than he had. “I’m molding young people to be activists, to speak out,” he declares. “You don’t have to wear a suit, you don’t have to have money, you just have to be proud of who you are.”
• Was born and raised in South Providence.
• Is a contractor for Partnership to Address Violence Through Education, an anti-bullying program; contractor at Providence Head Start; instructor at the Rhode Island Training School; and case worker at Tri-Town Community Action.
• Attended the URI College of Continuing Education, Human Services Program
• Was in the Navy from ’89-‘93, and is a veteran of the Gulf War.
• Is married with three children: daughters Kobii (9) and Saige (2), and son Vaughn (14).