Vicksburg, Warren County leaders sign youth center resolution, agreement

Published 10:21 am Monday, June 12, 2023

The city of Vicksburg and Warren County took two steps closer to opening a youth development center with the approval of a joint resolution establishing an oversight board for the program and an interlocal agreement to establish and operate the center.

The Warren County Supervisors approved both items at its meeting on June 5. The Board of Mayor and Aldermen approved the resolution and interlocal agreement Friday.

Warren County Board attorney Blake Teller told the supervisors the interlocal agreement will need the approval of the Attorney General’s office before it can go into effect.

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He said the purpose behind the plan was for the city, county, United Way of West Central Mississippi and the Vicksburg Warren School District to “come together in a collaborative partnership” to establish a youth development center to positively impact the lives of at-risk youth.

That would be done, he said, by connecting youth to community-based violence prevention services, academic enrichment, mentoring initiatives, mental health services and other resources to “reduce antisocial behaviors and levels of violence committed by at-risk youth in Vicksburg and Warren County.”

A five-member oversight board composed of two representatives each from the county and one from the school district will oversee the management and operations of the youth center and perform periodic assessments of the center’s executive director. Each board member will serve a three-year term.

Dr. Michelle Banks, a certified nurse practitioner, and Lucy DeRossette, an educator, will represent the city; Don Brown, deputy executive director of Warren Yazoo Behavioral Health, and Rachel Hardy, the Warren County Youth Court administrator, are the county’s board members; and Dr. Cedric Magee, associate superintendent for the school district, is VWSD’s appointment.

Under the interlocal agreement, United Way of West Central Mississippi will handle funds distribution, the county and the city will share the costs of operating and maintaining the center and the county will hire an executive director for the center, with the city providing a building. The city has acquired the former Vicksburg-Warren Chamber of Commerce building on Mission 66 for the center.

“I believe it is going to be the best thing that ever happened to the Vicksburg school system and the Vicksburg community in terms of Vicksburg and Warren County because it’s going to create more collaboration and coordination between the county and the city than ever before,” Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said. “I have never been so proud of the people that we have selected.

“I think we’re going to be able to start; I think we’ll be in about June 15,” he added. “Once we start coordinating all these activities and collaborating together I think that we’re going to see a significant reduction in dropouts and see a significant improvement in the day-to-day activities of our children.”

The youth development center was the recommendation of a committee appointed by Flaggs to look at solutions for youth violence in the city and county.

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.

Besides funding from United Way, Champions, Vicksburg’s health literacy program, is applying for 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.

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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