Weatherford Democrat

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August 9, 2012

Juvenile offenders to get fresh start

— The U.S. Department of Labor recently awarded a grant of $1.5 million that is expected to help young Parker County adults who have been involved in the juvenile justice system gain education, vocational training and an opportunity to give back to the community.

About 115 young people, ages 18 to 21, are expected to participate in the service projects and learning opportunities over a 26-month period through the Fort Worth-based, non-profit Community Learning Center, Inc.’s project in conjunction with various local partners.

The two larger construction projects include renovation of two historic Weatherford locations: the 12-acre Girl Scout Camp off of Holland Lake Drive and the two-room Mount Pleasant Colored School.

There will also be smaller construction projects, as well as interships through the city.

The young people who participate must not have been convicted as an adult and, if eligible, must show a high level of commitment, Kathy Daniel, CLC program development coordinator, said. Parker County Juvenile Probation will refer young people as they age out, as well as organizations such as Crossroads Youth Ministries that may know of eligible young people who could use the opportunity, according to Daniel.

“The whole idea is to get them back involved,” Daniel said.

Participants will be paid for their work, Daniel said. Most of the grant will go toward that as well as incentives for leadership, she said.

The educational component of the project will include partnerships with charter school Crosstimbers Academy, as well as Weatherford College, according to Daniel.

At the end of the program, participants will be assisted with postsecondary opportunities, vocational training and job placement services.

In addition to providing at-risk young people a productive opportunity and training young workers in things like electrical, concrete, masonry, roofing and carpentry skills, the project also assists the city with needs, according to City Manager Jerry Blaisdell.

For many years the City of Weatherford has been struggling with funding issues like most cities, Blaisdell said.

The city had been trying to figure out a way to keep viable the now-deteriorated, Works Progress Administration-built Girl Scout camp that has been used by generations of girls, Blaisdell said.

The camp and the Mount Pleasant school are great projects for a cooperative effort, Blaisdell said.

Raymond George has been working to restore the Mount Pleasant Colored School for 13 years, though the project has become more public in the past year as the restoration committee sought donations to help.

Built in 1927, the school provided nine grades of education to African American students during segregation and he hopes the restoration helps show later generations what it like to grow up in those days.

He hopes the assistance through CLC will move the project a lot faster.

The CLC Parker County Serve, Earn and Learn Project has more than 30 area partners including: the City of Weatherford, Save the Mount Pleasant Colored School, Inc., Parker County Juvenile Probation, the Center of Hope, Crossroads Youth Ministries of Parker County, Crosstimbers Academy, Pecan Valley Centers Behavioral and Developmental Care, Workforce Solutions for North Central Texas and others.

Several organizations were on hand Wednesday morning at Chandor Gardens as Rep. Kay Granger presented a ceremonial check to representatives.

“We want to make sure our kids are part of the community,” Granger said.  

They are currently working on putting together a steering committee for the project, CLC President Pat Lane said.

Daniel said there is currently nothing like the project in the Parker County area and it is one of 21 projects funded by the U.S. Department of Labor grant program nationwide.

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