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First Light Project Takes Aim At Gun Violence In Stamford

Marlene Wilden is the founder of the First Light Project, a program that pairs youths and veterans to curb gun violence in Stamford.
Marlene Wilden is the founder of the First Light Project, a program that pairs youths and veterans to curb gun violence in Stamford. Photo Credit: Contributed

STAMFORD, Conn. -- A city resident whose husband was deployed since 9/11 twice to Iraq has heard about the terrible toll violence takes on communities and soldiers in the places he went.

But two years ago when Marlene and Matthew Wilden learned of the fatal park shooting of Maxine Gooden, a mother of five, Marlene, of New Jersey, decided to launch a program to address gun violence in Stamford.

She had taken the school district’s Parent Leadership Training Institute and with her background as an educator developed First Light Project  to bring together the city's at-risk youths and local veterans.

For 10 weeks, 16 teens and veterans, including Matthew, met at the Boys & Girls Club of Stamford in the fall. It was an opportunity to form relationships based on their common understanding of how violence affect individuals, she told Daily Voice.

First Light gives both sides a chance to build a dialogue based on mutual understanding of trauma and perseverance, explained Marlene.

“They can shares stories to bring light on such problems like post-traumatic stress in a supportive environment."

Her program is rooted in the idea that in order to reduce violence youth and military veterans need to “process” any trauma they experienced.

Marlene maintains that talking about the impact of violence can change how people behave at home, at school, in neighborhoods.

"I’ve seen my husband go to war, come back, go again, and luckily, be able to come home again for good. The traumas and sacrifice from violent environments are, unfortunately, not as temporary as the time spent in them,” Marlene said.

She plans to run another 10-week program this year.

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