OUR MISSION: To inform, support, unite and promote the residents of Jefferson and Glascock counties.

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January 1, 2004 Issue

The greatest gift of all...
One local family received a special gift this Christmas when their own soldier came home for the holidays, if only just to visit. Master Sgt. Michael Lewis Williams Sr. of the 878th Engineer Battalion Army National Guard of Augusta came home to the waiting arms of this Jefferson and Burke county family, including wife Susan, sons Mike Jr. and Joshua and daughter Megan. Master Sgt. Williams has been stationed in Iraq and is scheduled to make the return trip on Jan. 6. Click here for more information.














 

 

 

 

 

 

SHIPS for Youth impacts lives

Organizers share realizations with collaborative's members in annual report

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

It is one thing to have sweeping goals that impact an entire county. It is another thing to see them taking life. And for Jefferson County SHIPS for Youth, the goals of multiple collaborative partners to positively impact the lives of children countywide are being realized. Those realizations were published at the recent annual report to collaborative members at Wrens Baptist Church.

On the volume and strength of collaborative members, Jefferson County was Georgia's only recipient of the Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant in 2002, a three-year federal grant that came with a price tag of $2.8 million.

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The number of collaborative partnerships is impressive and includes more than 50 business, social service, public and private health service, mental health, education, housing, childcare, law enforcement, faith-based organizations and consumers from throughout Jefferson County.

Perhaps more well known as a part of the Family Connection initiative, SHIPS derives its name from the grassroots collaborative effort that has partnerSHIPS, RelationSHIPS and leaderSHIP at its core.

The SHIPS collaborative efforts are already paying off in ways that are lifting the veil of perceptions that can so easily and incorrectly become mistaken as facts, said SHIPS Director Carolyn Swint.

"We all get so comfortable with the way things are that we don't see the potential in our county," she said. "It's easy for any of us to see our community with blinders. This view is what brings about some of our problems, including a lack of knowledge that is not so much intentional, but one that comes because we are immersed in the status quo."

Beyond the status quo are the results experienced by students referred during the first year of the grant. The 17 program areas submitted individual level data for 1,192 students in Jefferson County during the first year of the three-year Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant. This represents one-third of all students enrolled in the Jefferson County School system, said Swint.

Some of the SHIPS target areas encompassed in the grant programs are those preventing academic failure, truancy and disciplinary incidents at school. In terms of academics, approximately one out of every two students referred to the programs either improved or maintained their grades in math, reading, language arts, social studies and/or science. During the 2002-2003 school year, 43.8 percent of students improved their grades in the target subject area while 7.6 percent maintained their prior grade. The significance of the collaborative effort in bolstering academic standing is all the more relevant given that many of the students were failing one or more subjects when referred for services, said Swint. At the end of the school year, 85 percent of students were promoted to the next grade level, she added.

Through various SHIPS programs, year-end data showed that 76 percent of students participating in the programs were absent less than 10 days while the average participating student was absent only seven days during the school year. In terms of disciplinary issues, 55 percent of participating students had no disciplinary incidents at school and the average number of disciplinary referrals was two per student.

The list of collaborative programs under the Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant is exhaustive, with many targeting the families of the 1,192 children served during the 2002-2003 school year. The Enhanced Adolescent Health and Youth Development Programs include after school mentoring, abstinence education training, Girl and Boy Scouts, Future Community Leaders of America Club, Future Business Leaders of America Club, Male Involvement programs, alcohol and substance abuse prevention education for students and their families and recreation activities.

Other program areas include the Youth Apprentice program under the Community Policing initiative, the Alternative School, VISTA Volunteer Reading Program and tutorial programs at five of the county's six public schools.

Swint said the 1,192 students participating received more than 9,200 contacts with collaborative members agencies, individuals and organizations. Participating students ranged from kindergarten to 12th grade, with 62 percent of middle school students and 97 percent of all 7th graders participating in one or more programs. Eighty-three percent of participating students are African-American and 15 percent are Caucasian. Fifty-two percent are male and 48 percent are female.

The sheer scope of the strategic plan and the goals that led to the $2.8 million federal grant award is staggering. Put in perspective, Jefferson County was the only one of Georgia's 159 counties to receive the award in 2002. For Swint and many others whose time and efforts is immersed in the challenge, the desired result is nothing less than the transformation of their community.

"This is not just another social program," said Swint. "This an opportunity for the community to take responsibility for its own. Total community participation from our collaborative partners is so important when everybody works together. If we continue to do what we've doing now and enhance it, in 10 years this county will not look the same in terms of things like poverty, underachievement in academics, teen pregnancy, children's health and the use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs. This leads to a better-educated workforce with less family violence, less emotional crises and better physical health."

Swint asked that anyone interested in making Jefferson County a better place to live consider becoming a collaborative member of Jefferson County SHIPS for Youth. Swint can be contacted at (478) 625-0524.





Students set out to combat bullying and school violence

Louisville Middle students said they wanted to do something about it, and they did

By Ben Nelms
Staff Writer

Good ideas sometimes lead to great results. Such was the case during the first week of December, when the suggestion of two students at Louisville Middle School resulted in Georgia's first school-wide program designed specifically to address bullying and school violence.

"A lot of kids everywhere are the victims of bullying. That kind of aggression comes in verbal, physical and other forms," said Principal Sam Dasher. "And when they see the aggression from bullying being successful it sends the incorrect message that aggressiveness is the way to solve problems."

The inspiration for the weeklong series of events germinated during classes on Violence Prevention and Bullying conducted weeks earlier as part of a program taught by school resource officer Al Gaston. He was approached by two students, asking if the school could sponsor a protest against violence.

"The idea turned into an entire week of activities ranging from dress up days to a reverse beauty pageant and even a protest that we called 'A Stand Against Violence in Our School,'" said Gaston. "The overall participation of the students and the surrounding communities was overwhelming."

Activities began Dec. 1, when students began writing essays and poems, decorating classroom doors, designing posters and devising slogans, all aimed at addressing the negative effects of school violence and bullying. Activities continued through the week and included a school wide assembly Dec. 4. Speakers at the assembly included Bartow Mayor Hubert Jordan, Wadley Mayor Herman Baker, Maj. Charles Gibbons with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office, economic developer Brad Day and Jefferson County school's Director of Support Services Dr. Curtis Hunter.

"I'm proud of the kids for doing this. They are trying to make people more aware about bullying and belittling," Jordan said after the event. "People who belittle and bully others don't always understand that it can have a long-term effect. So it's great that the school is doing this."

Events Dec. 5 continued with another assembly where certificates were awarded to the winning entries in the various contests. Rounding out the assembly and the week was a presentation by current and former jet fighter pilots representing Atlanta-based LeadCorps Youth. The organization draws real-world analogies between the environment in which today's youth live and the potential combat situations faced by pilots, according to co-founder Chris Miller.

"The goal is that our young people will adopt this mentality to help them get through the tough teenage years that are filled with peer pressure, violence and lack of direction," said LeadCorps' Maj. Wes Sharp.

Gibbons reinforced that outlook from a local perspective when addressing the assembly. Known for a straight-talk approach, he covered a variety of topics including crime prevention, gangs and gang-related concerns, the importance of working with teachers to receive a good education, the need to have a spiritual life and the advantages of respecting and obeying laws.

"Violence Prevention Week gave students an opportunity to learn more about taking a stand against bullying," said Gibbons. "By initiating the events this week, the students took a stand to help other students learn that bullying doesn't work and that it must be opposed. Students can choose to make the right choices."

Gibbons said bullying does not begin or end at school. The fact that bullying and violence exists in every community makes all partners in a child's life, especially parents and family members, critical to the child's success. And as for Louisville Middle School, Dasher said the school will fulfill its role as a member of that partnership.

"Bullying is a community problem that takes a community effort to overcome," said Dasher. "At Louisville Middle School, we are intent on being a positive part of that community effort."

 


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