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Mentoring Juvenile Crime Reduction
1/5/2018 1:08:35 PM
Mentoring

Local law enforcement statistics show a slow but steady increase in crimes committed by juveniles over the past year – not only petty crimes, but armed robbery and murder. City police filed 802 criminal charges against youth in the first seven months of 2017 compared to 648 over that same period in 2016; a nearly 25 percent increase. Mayor Nic Hunter feels it is imperative that the city develop a juvenile crime reduction initiative that would allow the community to be proactive in decreasing these numbers. "Even if our police force solves a crime, someone has been hurt,” says Kimberly Dellafosse, Assistant City Administrator for the City of Lake Charles. "We want to be as proactive as possible, and not simply reactive.”

Hunter and his team began last summer by identifying strategies proven to reduce juvenile delinquency and improve outcomes for young people who might otherwise be at risk. After researching, they discovered that mentoring is one of the best ways to accomplish these goals. Since then, they have been diligent in their efforts to implement programs that address our youth, as well as initiatives to increase the number of volunteer mentors in the city.

Dellafosse says our Recreation and Parks Department started a program called Teen Connections, which offers free bi-monthly seminars on a variety of skills that can help young people; for example, ACT prep, resume writing, interview skills, brand building on social media, and more. "Those types of courses help enrich the lives of young people and help them to make better choices, which make for a better city.” 

The Teen Connection program started late October of last year. In the short time since then, Dellafosse says around 50 youth have benefited. The city offers this program on the first and third Thursday of each month, 5:00 – 6:00 p.m. at Columbus Circle Rec Center in Greenwich Village and the Goosport facility (now called the Donald Ray Stevens Rec Center.) More locations will be added as needed. The program is open to middle and high school youth in Southwest Louisiana. "Any teenager is welcome,” says Dellasfosse. "Volunteer speakers at the events include local educators, business owners, youth leaders, and others who have a commitment to helping our young people.”

The team will continue to collaborate with the District Attorney’s office to further determine what kind of programming they can create to serve the area and address the needs of our young people. "All of these efforts through the juvenile crime reduction initiative have been steps to be proactive and try to deter kids from making bad decisions, providing them with outlets that teach them something, offering them options, and improving our community,” says Dellafosse. "As we move forward, we’ll be rolling out new programs, and the District Attorney’s office is also rolling out its new initiative called "Positive Change.” But at this time, we really want to focus on increasing the number of mentors and providing programming for our young people that enriches their lives.” 

Beginning this month, the city will bring together a roundtable of area mentoring experts from various organizations to identify ways to increase the number of mentors in the city. There are currently numerous ways interested persons can volunteer to make a positive impact in the lives of at-risk youth – Big Brothers Big Sisters, Family and Youth Counseling Agency, the Community Foundation’s Workforce Scholarship Program, civic and social groups, and various area churches.

Dellafosse reminds us that we, as a city, need to be a city that loves our children. "Children are our future. We love them by preparing them and providing them with opportunities to be their best.” 

January is National Mentoring Month. Would you be willing to make a difference in the life of a young person?

Benefits of having a mentor:
  • Increased high school graduation rates
  • Lower high school dropout rates
  • Healthier relationships and lifestyle choices
  • Better attitude about school
  • Higher college enrollment rates and higher educational aspirations
  • Enhanced self-esteem and self-confidence
  • Improved behavior, both at home and at school
  • Stronger relationships with parents, teachers, and peers
  • Improved interpersonal skills
  • Decreased likelihood of initiating drug and alcohol use

Benefits to the mentor:
  • Increased self-esteem
  • A sense of accomplishment
  • Creation of networks of volunteers
  • Insight into childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood
  • Increased patience and improved supervisory skills
Posted by: Angie Kay Dilmore | Submit comment | Tell a friend

Categories: Parenting  |  Relationships

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