Jim Bernazzani, President of Youth Rescue Initiative
Youth Rescue Initiative
New Orleans, LA
When the campaign to bring Target America: Opening Eyes to the Damage Drugs Cause to New Orleans got underway, one of the first people that Museum Director Sean Fearns and Bill Beach, the Director of External Relations for the DEA Educational Foundation, sat down with was Jim Bernazzani, President of Youth Rescue Initiative. From the moment Jim heard about the exhibit, and its powerful story of the many costs and consequences of drug abuse, he was on board. As a matter of fact, Youth Rescue Initiative (YRI) became the first major sponsor of the exhibit. Why? Because Jim Bernazzani “gets it.”
A graduate of Harvard University, Jim reported to the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia on June 7, 1984. It was during his distinguished career as a lawman and crime fighter that Jim witnessed first-hand the effects of troubled youth on society. Prior to coming to New Orleans, Bernazzani served as Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Houston Division where he was responsible for investigations and operations targeting international drug cartels and other organized crime groups. Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks against America, Special Agent Bernazzani was promoted to Deputy Director for Law Enforcement at the Counterterrorism Center, Central Intelligence Agency. During May 2003, he was again promoted to Principal Deputy Director of the newly formed Terrorist Threat Integration Center. At the time of his appointment as Special Agent in Charge of the New Orleans Division, Special Agent Bernazzani acted as Deputy Assistant Director for international terrorism investigations and operations handled by the FBI.
His term in New Orleans led to numerous convictions against violent criminals and corrupt government officials. As Special Agent in Charge of the New Orleans Division, Mr. Bernazzani led the FBI response relative to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. For his work post Katrina/Rita, Mr. Bernazzani was awarded the 2006 Presidential Award for Meritorious Service. During May 2008, Mr. Bernazzani retired from the FBI after 24 years of distinguished service.
In October of 2008, Jim, along with the Georgusis family, co-founded Youth Rescue Initiative. Established in memory of Joey Georgusis, YRI is a comprehensive endeavor designed to assist at-risk youth in the greater New Orleans area overcome challenges and achieve success. Its mission is to create structured opportunities for positive growth in an effort to build character and discipline among today’s disenfranchised youth, thus improving the quality of life for all citizens of New Orleans.
“Educating children at a young age about the destructive nature of illegal drug use and the participation in illegal drug trade is critical in developing young adults who will have a positive impact on the community, said Bernazzani. “Youth Rescue Initiative applauds the DEA, the DEA Museum, and the DEA Educational Foundation for bringing this important exhibit to New Orleans.”
Jim, it is the DEA Museum and the DEA Educational Foundation that applauds you. You provided the necessary motivation and enthusiasm to others in order to ensure that this very important exhibit was successfully supported. We thank you, and Youth Rescue Initiative for their encouragement, enthusiasm, and financial support.
YRI recently celebrated its first anniversary as a public non-profit, and with Jim as President, we are encouraged to know that they will continue to sponsor programs designed to build skills and instill discipline to area at-risk youth as they grow into adulthood.
Target America: Opening Eyes to the Damage Drugs Cause, which is on display at the Louisiana State Museum/Old U.S. Mint in New Orleans, runs through November 24, 2010, Tuesdays through Sunday from 10:00 AM to 4:30 PM, with free admission.