City unveils preliminary plan for Youth Development Center
Published 2:45 pm Friday, March 10, 2023
The City of Vicksburg held a public meeting to present the preliminary plans for a new Youth Development Center on Wednesday at the Vicksburg Auditorium.
The plan results from an Ad Hoc committee of community members appointed by Mayor George Flaggs Jr. to discuss strategies to combat youth violence after the murder of 13-year-old Carleone Woodland in Vicksburg.
The plan calls for many existing social services in the community for at-risk youths and their families to have a central location of offices to better communicate with each other to identify and address issues facing young children more effectively.
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Vicksburg Police Chief Penny Jones welcomed community members at the beginning of the meeting.
“In light of what’s going on in our community today, not just our community, but in other cities, we have to do our due diligence to come up with a youth program for kids in our community. We have a lot of stakeholders that are involved in this new youth development program, and we have been working in a holistic way to make sure that it’s going to work out right,” Jones said. “We can structure a (custom) program for them to go to, and I think that’s going to help a lot, and it may curtail a lot of the problems that we’re having in our community.”
Flaggs then used a flow chart to describe the new system that would be used to standardize the communication network and responsibilities that the organizations would use. A voucher system run by the United Way of West Central Mississippi would be used to identify which youths will be eligible for assistance.
“For those people that provide these services in the community today, we are not touching your service. Period,” Flaggs said. “This is an enhancement to your service…Whatever you’ve got now, you’re going to still get. But this way (we) will be accountable in many ways.”
An advisory board would oversee the functions of many different services, with an executive director working with several service coordinators. The system would incorporate services from several community institutions, which will still operate the same services they did before but with the benefit of cross-organizational communication.
For instance, the youth court would still operate its family and youth mentoring programs and academic enrichment services, and the Vicksburg Warren School District would still operate its conflict resolution program and family services. The district will also be instrumental in producing the referrals to decide which children receive vouchers for the program.
The floor was opened for questions and comments from meeting attendees. The responses were primarily supportive, and several suggestions were made to the team working on the project.
One individual suggested more vocational training and making jobs available to kids seeking direction. Another community member suggested identifying and addressing the roadblocks parents encounter when trying to get their children involved in the services.
Jones said that the community could expect information on the final plans for the new system soon.