Kady Beaoui has witnessed firsthand the way the Citizenship and
Justice Academy transforms the lives of troubled youth.
joining the academy, a lot of the kids coming here have this attitude
that the government or society owes them something," said Beaoui,
a case manager at CJA. "When they leave here, they have a sense
of What can I do to give back to my community?'"
developed by the Gulfport Municipal Court, the CJA is now in a strategic
partnership with The University of Southern Mississippi Gulf Park,
which operates the vocational and educational program through a
grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.
CJA will see the first fruits of its efforts to help disadvantaged
youth as 21 participants graduate at the Gulf Park campus. The ceremony,
set to begin at 10 a.m. at AEC auditorium, marks the completion
of the participants' first phase of occupational and educational
CJA targets just the disadvantaged youth entering the Harrison County
Court system, which sees a significant number of cases each month
involving those aged 16-21. These courts retain jurisdiction over
these youth for up to two years in some cases. Robert Norris, assistant
director of CJA, said this constant population of adolescents gives
the staff an opportunity to provide essential services to these
statistics reveal that more than half of all adult offenders committed
their first crimes as teenagers," Norris said. "By targeting
disadvantaged youth entering the Harrison County Court systems,
the CJA can offer services to correct educational or vocational
deficiencies in their lives. This will assist in reducing recidivism
and help them to become productive adults."
Two of the
primary goals of the CJA, which began Sept. 24, are for all offenders
to obtain their General Equivalency Diploma (GED) and learn skills
that will help them get into college or land a job.
that originally, the CJA got most of its recruits from the youth
court system, but that about 25 percent now comes from referrals
from current students.
them say, I have a friend who wants to get his life on track, and
we have a few who are high school graduates who have no idea how
to get into college," she said. "We can help them with
their college financial aid packets, or anything else that might
help them attain their goals."
four phases, the CJA requires participants to complete one week
of civics training, one week of the "Character Counts Program,"
one week or 40 hours of community service, 200 hours
of GED training and testing, and job placement and follow-up.
Clinton Buchanon, Saucier; Brannon Griffin, Gulfport; June Marrallo,
Gulfport; Gary Wallace, Gulfport; Lafonte Washington, Biloxi; Richard
Bass, Gulfport; Ernest Cole; Thomas Frederick, Gulfport; Robert
Freightman, Gulfport; Charles Graham, Gulfport; Dustin Lacey, Gulfport;
Crystal Hurt, Gulfport; Emmanuel Lee, Gulfport; Astrin Tillman,
Gulfport; Daondrick Washington, Gulfport; Alana Clark, Gulfport;
Amanda Clark, Gulfport; Katreena Mateen, Gulfport; Kimberly Perkins,
Biloxi; Jessica Seymour, Biloxi; Ashley Tillman, Gulfport.