A program designed to target at-risk youth with counseling and job placement, as well as helping to curb the damaging effects of illegal drugs and juvenile crime on the lives of young people, is paying dividends in more ways than one, according to Pat Sylvester, NFusion principal investigator and DeSoto County's grant representative.
"We are doing really well with this program," Sylvester told members of the DeSoto County Board of Supervisors on Monday. "We want to train our parents and teachers how to advocate for these children," Sylvester said of at-risk youth.
The NFusion effort, a four-year program funded through a $4 million grant, is aimed at breaking the cycle of drug use, despondency and despair in the state's No. 1 county for heroin overdose deaths.
Such devastating habits start while children are young. The NFusion program serves children ages 5 through 21.
"We're seeing a little bit of every age," Sylvester said.
The latest statistics show that there are more than 176 children and youths enrolled in the program.
The NFusion program receives a draw-down in grant funds of $983,000 per year.
"We've been able to hire more therapists," added Sylvester of grant money used for the program.
Of the program's participants, 71 percent are male and 29 percent are female. A total of 53.2 percent of the participants are African-American and 39.2 percent are white. Multiracial participants total 4.1 percent.
District 4 Supervisor Lee Caldwell suggested that NFusion obtain the services of an anti-bullying speaker as part of efforts to promote a healthy environment for youth.
Sylvester also discussed the possibility of developing a "ropes course" for participants, the cost of which would total about $200,000.
Sylvester said the program is in search of the use of one acre of donated land for the ropes course.
District 3 Supervisor Bill Russell informed Sylvester that she should contact the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for available land for a ropes course at Arkabutla Lake and Dam.
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.