Current Fellows

Wendy Calderone-Payne

Current Fellow

Rev. Wendy Calderón-Payne has been a leader and innovator in the juvenile justice spaces for the past two decades. As Executive Director of Urban Youth Alliance, Rev. Wendy has developed initiatives to reduce incarceration and violence through community-driven solutions. In 1999, she founded the Connect programs in the Bronx to provide alternative community-based pathways for youth and young adults who have committed serious crimes. Under Rev. Wendy’s leadership, the organization has scaled its approach to Manhattan and Philadelphia, as well as launched additional programs in New York City that address gun violence, re-entry, and workforce development. Rev. Wendy has demonstrated the life-affirming value of hiring and uplifting the leadership of incarceration survivors. Wendy graduated with honors from Brown University with an AB in Latin American Studies.

The mission of Urban Youth Alliance (BronxConnect) is to keep youth out of jail for life. Urban Youth Alliance (UYA), the parent organization, was founded in 1970 to foster the leadership of South Bronx and Harlem residents. In 1999, UYA established BronxConnect to address the youth incarceration epidemic. Instead of incarcerating youth, staff from the community equips youth and their families with the life skills and support networks needed to thrive and avoid future justice system involvement. BronxConnect has served over 2,500 youth. In recent years, we have expanded in geography and scope. The Connect programs have a presence in Manhattan and Philadelphia, and the organization has launched additional initiatives in the Bronx, including violence prevention, reentry, workforce, and advocacy and organizing. The approach that guides our work is based on a strengths-based model that recognizes the assets of each individual and community, and includes a spectrum of supports, ranging from cognitive behavioral therapeutic interventions to mentorship and employment support. 

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