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Three professional basketball players and the athletic footwear manufacturer, Converse Inc., are lending their support to a new program designed to reduce gun violence among young people.

Latrell Sprewell of the Golden State Warriors, Kevin Johnson of the Phoenix Suns, and Sharone Wright of the Philadelphia 76ers will speak out against gun violence in a series of public-service announcements and a classroom video developed by the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence.

The Washington-based center's "Straight Talk About Risks" program uses role-playing and conflict-resolution exercises to teach students alternatives to violence.

More information on the program is available from the center at (202) 289-7319.

A report from the Lilly Endowment examines the role churches and other religious organizations play in improving community life.

The report tracks the progress of community-development efforts launched since 1989 under a $5 million Lilly program designed to help churches get involved in areas from housing to job training to child care.

Copies of the report, part of the foundation's "Progressions" series, are available free of charge from the Lilly Endowment Inc., 2801 North Meridian St., P.O. Box 88068, Indianapolis, Ind. 46208-0068; (317) 924-5471.

A Philadelphia nonprofit organization has launched an effort to help community groups better serve young people by coordinating the groups' activities and pooling their resources.

The group, Public/Private Ventures, designs, implements, and evaluates youth programs, with a particular emphasis on reducing unemployment among at-risk youths.

Its Community Change for Youth Development project will bring together Boys and Girls Clubs, Y.M.C.A.'s, churches, and other community groups in seven cities. The sites will use work opportunities to motivate, train, and prepare young people for adulthood and to reinforce links between school and employment.

They will also try to offer an array of athletic, social, and recreational after-school and weekend activities for youths.

To date, five sites have received six-month planning grants: Boston; Kansas City, Mo.; New York City; Savannah, Ga.; and St. Petersburg, Fla. The group says it plans to select two more sites in the next two months.

--Meg Sommerfeld

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