Ribbon cut on new Youth Development Center

Published 10:48 pm Wednesday, February 7, 2024

It has been said a community can be measured by how well it prepares for its children’s future and how it protects their health. That was Mayor George Flaggs Jr.’s message to those in attendance at Wednesday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Vicksburg-Warren County Youth Development Center.

Warren County Board of Supervisors President Kelle Barfield added, “When we fuel our minds with positive messages, it shapes the world. It takes a village.”

Part of that village is the new Youth Development Center, which will coordinate services that are available to help youth in many areas. With funding through Wallace Foundation, it is a collaborative partnership between the City of Vicksburg Board of Mayor and Aldermen, the Warren County Board of Supervisors, Vicksburg Warren School District, the United Way of West Central Mississippi and the Wallace Foundation.

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Youth Development Center Executive Director Dr. Susie Calbert said the purpose of the new program is to lead people to the resources they need, whether it is parent-support assistance, finding mental health treatment, summer and after-school programs, or tutoring. Warren County Youth Court, the Vicksburg Warren School District, law enforcement agencies, and the United Way are some of the agencies participating in partnership with the program, which is also open to individuals seeking help.

Cameron Pollard and Jordyn Hill, two members of the Youth Advisory Board for the center, were present for Wednesday’s event. Both are students at Vicksburg High School and said they are excited about the opportunity to help lead peers to the resources that are available. Pollard said his motto is “vision, strategy and execution.” He explained he hopes to take the vision of the people who brought the center into existence and, by helping with a strategy, execute solutions to help other young people in the community.

United Way of Central West Mississippi Executive Director Michele Connelly stressed the program will provide streamlined access to community and private programs through a dedicated agency. When the idea was proposed by Flaggs, the United Way had already applied for – and received – a grant through Wallace Foundation, Connelly said. In reviewing their grant proposal, they realized it was perfect fit for what Flaggs described. The result is the Youth Development Center. When someone is seeking help, Calbert will be equipped with vouchers from the United Way to refer people to the services they need. The United Way will continue to work on grant opportunities that may be available to 501(c)(3) foundations and provide fiscal oversight.

The Wallace Foundation was begun by DeWitt and Lila Acheson Wallace, the founders of Reader’s Digest. Through various resources, the foundation seeks to “foster equity and improvements in learning and enrichment for young people.” Several members of the Wallace Foundation team attended Wednesday’s ribbon cutting, including Vice President of Youth Development Gigi Antoni, who said Vicksburg was one of 1,700 applicants, of which only 30 were chosen to receive grants.

The Youth Development Center will be open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and is located in the former chamber of commerce building at 2020 Mission 66.