Vicksburg Champions seeking $2 million juvenile violence grant

Published 2:56 pm Friday, June 2, 2023

Champions, Vicksburg’s health literacy program, is looking to turn its attention to helping the city curb its youth violence problem.

The organization is seeking a $2 million U.S. Justice Department Office of Justice Programs grant spread out over three years for a community-based violence intervention and prevention initiative.

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen at its May 25 meeting approved a resolution authorizing the application and an agreement between Champions and Jackson State University to monitor the grant.

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“If this project is funded, it will help us address the escalating problems of youth violence that Vicksburg has experienced within the community and it will also help to build the capacity of community-based organizations and faith-based organizations to offer evidence-based violence prevention programs,” said Champions Executive Director Felicia Kent.

Kent was a member of Mayor George Flaggs Jr.’s committee to examine programs to address and curb youth violence in the city. Flaggs announced a crackdown on youth violence and appointed the committee in the wake of the Jan. 30 shooting death of 13-year-old Carleone Woodland.

The committee recommended a plan to place existing social services in the community for at-risk youths and their families at a central location to better communicate with each other and identify and address issues facing young children more effectively. The board later acquired the former Vicksburg-Warren Chamber of Commerce office on Mission 66 for the center.

Kent said the grant will help fund some of the activities under the Youth Development Center and be able to provide one-on-one training with community-based organizations to implement evidence-based, data-informed violence prevention and intervention projects throughout the city.

Since its creation as a health literacy program, Kent said Champions has been able to gain knowledge working with outreach to families, youth and underserved populations.

“We saw that it would be a great opportunity for us to work with the youth, the staff of the Youth Development Center and also be able to provide funding for the actual program implementation at the Youth Development Center,” she said. “One of the things that we’ve learned is that evidence-based data, informed practices and curricular is so important and with that, we will be able to train the churches and the community-based organizations around youth and family violence prevention.”

Kent said Champions plans to work with organizations that are already providing youth violence prevention programs in the area and help them build their capacity to be able to implement programs in the community.

“The ultimate goal is we want to be able to see reduce violence in Vicksburg, particularly with high-risk youth,” she said. “It’s not to duplicate the efforts of the Youth Development Center but to enhance and expand and to support the efforts of the Youth Development Center.”

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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