Vicksburg Board approves grants for Kings Empowerment; Central Mississippi Prevention Services

Published 1:24 pm Thursday, October 28, 2021

Two community-based programs helping at-risk youth in the area are the beneficiaries of federal American Recovery Plan Act funds presented to the city of Vicksburg.

The city received $5.6 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds and the Board of Mayor and Aldermen in August decided to share the wealth by providing grants in various denominations to local museums and civic and faith-based organizations.

The board Monday approved two grants — $10,000 a year for two years to Kings Empowerment Center and $7,500 a year for two years to Central Mississippi Prevention Services to help those agencies build programs to provide mentoring, counseling and tutoring services to students.

The Rev. Dexter Jones, the pastor of Triumph Ministries, which operates Kings Empowerment Center, said the $10,000 grant will help the organization continue the programs it provides for children in the community.

“We’re going to use it to fund our after-school tutorial program and our mentoring program that we do with young people in the community; in the city of Vicksburg,” he said.

Jones said the money combined with other funds the center receives “helps us continue to provide the services that we’re presently providing to the community and the city of Vicksburg and Warren County to help our young people out. Our main goal is to empower young people to become great citizens in the community and Vicksburg and Warren County.”

He said the tutoring program is designed to help children having problems in school and uses certified teachers from the Vicksburg Warren School District who are hired to help meet the child’s needs in subjects where the child is struggling.

“In our mentoring program we partner with the county youth court,” Jones said. “I have a relationship with the court and Judge (Marcie) Southerland and they will contact our program about the young people they desire for us to mentor and spend time with doing various things while teaching them the basics of being a good productive citizen.”

He said the mentoring program requires the children to do community service. “They have to learn the importance of being productive in the community,” he said.

Central Mississippi Prevention Services Executive Director Joe Johnson said the agency’s program targets students who are often going back and forth between alternative school and youth court; “The juvenile justice system and the detention center.

“Our goal is to reduce their negative behavior and increase their chances of success in school,” he said. “We do that through social learning, individual counseling, small group counseling and life skills training, primarily.

Many of the students CMPS works with, Johnson said, have problems resolving conflicts, managing anger and problem-solving.

“Because of, and through, many of the high-risk factors they are surrounded by, staying out of trouble is a hard thing to do,” he said.

Some people, he said, “kind of shove off” risk factors, “but when you begin to think what these kids are up against, they’re surrounded by the easy availability of alcohol and firearms, poverty and association with peers who are delinquent — aggressive delinquents — gang involvement.

“There’s a real issue with the circumstances so many of these youth are involved in — there’s a reason the involvement is called ‘the cradle to prison’; once they get on that path, the youth justice system becomes a rail to worse things.

“Because of their poor decision skills and sometimes a lack of support inadequate support they get on this path early. For many, there’s a razor-thin line between staying on the right path and delinquency.”

The grant will help CMPS continue its efforts to help children stay away from trouble, he said.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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