The New York City Police Foundation and the NYPD established the Options program, which helps New York City youth build decision-making skills and access career-development opportunities through a series of workshops, training programs and internships. By partnering together, NYPD officers and youth participants in the program are having authentic, thoughtful, and productive discussions regarding real-life situations and challenges that young New Yorkers are facing. The Options curriculum was designed to create better outcomes, by enhancing emotional intelligence, developing de-escalation techniques, and strengthening the situational awareness of its participants.
To date, hundreds of NYPD officers and thousands of young people have participated in these dynamic workshops, which have fostered authentic, thoughtful and productive discussions regarding real-life situations and skills to to navigate the challenges young people in New York City face.
Options Fundamentals uses virtual reality scenarios to allow for both NYPD officers and youth participants to hear different perspectives, build common ground, and gain an understanding of the impact of their decisions.
Over 20,000 young New Yorkers, age 14-18 years old, have participated in Options Fundamentals training workshops using virtual reality (VR) technology to promote collaborative discussions on how to apply emotional intelligence and de-escalation techniques to real-life situations. The VR scenarios were developed in partnership with youth to reflect issues they identified and are concerned about such as police stops, cyber-bullying, hate crimes, gun situations, sexual assaults, gangs, peer pressure, and domestic violence.
To address the root issue of lack of job opportunities for young people, the Options curriculum was expanded to offer a pathway to career development. Options: Learn2Earn offers students a stipend and provides opportunities to learn valuable new skills.
Learn2Earn workshops are held remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and are conducted by members of the NYPD, the Police Foundation staff, and subject matter experts. Students engage in community-building, communications, ﬁnancial management, and training, with a focus on storyboarding scenarios and preparing to become workshop facilitators.
After completing six weeks of training, graduating participants are invited to become youth facilitators, helping to guide new students through the program.
To me, the best part of being a Police Officer in the NYPD is helping kids across the city. I've never seen kids respond as they do to the Options Program. I'm positive it has everything to do with the combination of the curriculum and the virtual reality technology.
Detective Jason Anazagasty
Nobody ever asked me before how I feel about my neighborhood. It makes you want to be a part of making it better.
John N., Options Participant
Being in Learn2Earn has always been a great experience, since I was in the financial management course myself to now helping to teach it. I've learned a variety of things, and even with having the great opportunity to teach, I still find myself learning more, and I get to help other young people.
Nialli J., Options Participant
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea tries out Options VR
An Options VR session (Photograph by Josh Touster)