Bad behavior in our schools; it's nothing new, but there is a new program designed to catch those at-risk students before they fall through the gaps and into the cycle of failure.
Introduced in January, organizers believe it can eventually help Take Back Our Neighborhoods. I checked in for a progress report in this 3 On Your Side investigation.
It was a proud and, some say, ambitious announcement at the I-S Sanders YMCA, in downtown Jackson.
Mississippi Department of Human Services representative Paul Nelson said,
"The idea here is for a child to not, before he reaches or, you know, would go to youth court, to be referred over to a program such as this with the YMCA," said Mississippi Department of Human Services representative Paul Nelson.
That was in January. More than four weeks later, the Community Youth Career Development Center is underway in 14 counties across the state; a roughly 3-point-1 million dollar investment by the Mississippi Department of Human Services.
A fleet of buses pick up the kids from school, bring them to the Y, and deliver them home after a couple of hours of counseling. Fourteen have signed up here, so far.
"The majority of our kids are latch-key kids," said YMCA Chief Administrative Officer Jara Miller. "The principals, guidance counselors, school teachers refer kids to our program. These are kids that may be on the border line of becoming behind in their education. They may have some behavior issues. They're acting out in the classroom."
When asked who was a hero in her life, a 7th grader in the program replied,
"My mother and my boyfriend," said a 7th grader in the program when asked who was a hero in her life. "Because, like if a boy mess with me and I want to fight him, he be like, nah let me fight him."
Dee Dee Peurifoy is the Hinds County site director and primary youth coach. She sees that behavior up close and in her own words, the stories she hears from some of these children are "mind blowing".
"So, it has been kinda rocky because they're coming from situations where they're not used to being so close knit and that's how we want it," said Peurifoy.
Greg Riley is also a youth coach. He's from Jackson.
"Even when they go dealing with negative behavior, they're looking for something and we're trying to make sure what they find from us is something positive," said Riley.
"Conflict resolution, career building, attitude, teen pregnancy prevention, std's, drug awareness, any range of those topics," added Peurifoy.
Plus, a focus on the future, whether it be college or preparation for the workforce.
The target age group is 12-18, the same age as an increasing number of violent offenders in the capital city, a trend the Mississippi Department of Human Services, through the YMCA and with the help of the Hinds County Sheriff's department, hopes to see a decline and eventual end.
The Y operates Community Youth Career Development Centers in 14 counties around the state.
If you're interested, contact the YMCA at 601-948-3090 or check out their website.
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