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Released January 29, 2003


LONG BEACH – Kady Beaoui has witnessed firsthand the way the Citizenship and Justice Academy transforms the lives of troubled youth.

"Before 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?'"

Originally 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.

On Friday, 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 training.

Currently, 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 youths.

"National 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.

Beaoui said 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.

"A lot 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."

Designed in 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.

Graduates include: 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.


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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM