The Southern Miss School of Social Work's Family Network Partnership
(FNP) has received a $7,500 grant from the Mississippi Arts Commission
to promote the arts among Hattiesburg-area youth at high risk for
delinquent behavior. The FNP's Public Art Project has enjoyed continuous
funding from the Arts Commission for the past six years.
Over that time,
the project has seen artists from all disciplines - most of them
Southern Miss students and faculty - who work with area children
in varying circumstances.
Some are youth
held at the Forrest County Youth Detention Center, while others
are children whose circumstances and backgrounds put them at high
risk for getting into trouble.
all of these kids at risk for delinquency," said Dr. Michael
Forster, director of the School of Social Work. "We by no means
think they're all going to become delinquents, but they have the
circumstances that we know correlate to delinquency."
poverty, a single-parent home or having exposure to bad examples
in high-crime neighborhoods can create those circumstances. Most
at-risk children often have a great deal unsupervised free time
on their hands.
that kids don't get in trouble after midnight," Forster said.
"They get in trouble between three o'clock and 7 p.m., when
there is no one supervising them."
activities through involvement in the arts has had a positive impact
on the lives of children who have participated, Forster said.
of kids who re-offend after being involved in the program is not
even one-third of what would be expected without them being involved
in the program," Forster said. "But we qualify that a
little bit by saying kids who participate regularly."
Art Project has its roots in Lowndes County, where years ago the
youth court there began getting at-risk youth involved in the arts.
When the Arts Commission got wind of the practice, the organizations
began funding similar enterprises around the state, including the
one at Southern Miss.
which is administered by Forster and Timothy Rehner, assistant director
of the School of Social Work, has led to the creation of several
visible works of art around Hattiesburg. Among them are the large
totem at the Hattiesburg Zoo and the Obelisk at the Robinson Place
project will likely include activities centered on dance and writing,
prevention is the thread that runs throughout everything the FNP
does. In addition to the Public Art Project, those activities include
a variety of ongoing programs set up in an after-school setting.
These include tutoring and various types of recreation, as well
as more time- and work-intensive undertakings. One of these has
area youth working to repair donated bicycles, which are then given
to children living in foster homes.
repair activities take place Boys and Girls Club on McKinnis Street
in Hattiesburg. Other places the FNP operates from include the community
center at Robinson Place and space provided free of charge by the
local Housing Authority Board, Forster said.