Keeping Youth Out of Trouble
Click Here To See Video News Story
PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - For one local group, there isn't just one answer to putting a stop to violence in the area, but they do believe reaching the youth with positivity can help.
Voices Against Violence meetings draw out locals to talk about improving neighborhoods, some where parents don't feel comfortable letting their kids play outdoors.
"It's when we come together and we talk about our concerns," Janice Lucas, Executive Director of the LEAD Coalition of Bay County said, "about reducing violence in our community, particularly youth violence."
The public forum, formed by the LEAD Coalition of Bay County is focused on a younger demographic. Through discussion, community members came up with the "Count Me In" truancy program at Jinks Middle School and Everitt Middle School.
"Some of the violence that's occurring in our community is happening because of the youth," Lucas said.
Count Me In works alongside the after-school program at both schools. Students learn and participate in activities with an emphasis on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics.
"Students are able to see these things that maybe pique their interest," Jinks Middle School Principal Britt Smith said. "It gives them an opportunity to begin to develop their academic portfolio."
Piquing their academic interest in hopes of keeping them off the streets and instead, with their heads in the books.
"Every Monday we do a grade check where they check our grades to see where our strong suits are and what we need help in," Jinks Middle School student Cyntherria Turner said.
Turner and another student, Noah Justice both received an award from Count Me In, encouraging them to stay in school.
"Anything that they're struggling in, we have them email their teachers right there in front of us," Mitch Kelly, Site Coordinator at Jinks Middle School said.
In the after-school program students even learn through karate classes and the Girl Scouts to teach kids important life lessons, hoping to steer them from going down the wrong path.
"[The instructor] teaches us discipline and some karate moves. I did it last year with him and during the summer," Justice said.
You can visit LeadABetterLife.org for more information about the LEAD Coalition of Bay County.