5/27/2005 2:40:52 AM
LSU AgCenter agents are taking character education programs to youth offenders in detention centers in the state.
In one example, LSU AgCenter 4-H agent Chantel Williams of Jefferson Parish recently was offering two different opportunities for character educational at the Bridge City Center for Youth near New Orleans.
"My first step was to train some of the youth offenders through the Character Critters program so they can present it to younger children at libraries," Williams said, adding, "Hopefully, that will show them ways of not getting into trouble like they did,"
The Character Critters program was designed for use with preschoolers. In it, the children hear stories about a variety of critters, including Tommy, the trustworthy turtle; Roy, the responsible rabbit; Rusty, the respectful raccoon, Fran, the fair frog; Cindy, the citizen crab; and Carrie, the caring cat.
Each of those animals represents one of the six pillars of Character.
In another phase of her strategy at the Bridge City Center, Williams said she brought in LSU AgCenter character education coordinator Sarah Williams to train educators at the facility on how to take Character Counts! and other programs back to their classrooms. Those programs will target youth offenders who are housed at the Bridge City facility and will try to teach them more about the pillars of character.
John Anderson, the center’s director, said they’ve had character education programs at the facility before, but that it was a very limited effort.
"We’ve been using the program, but not to the extent that the LSU AgCenter presents it," Anderson said. "What we’ve done in the past was use one of the six pillars as our word of the month."
Anderson said such programs as Character Counts! and other character education programs are important in facilities like the one he runs.
"The conditions within the juvenile institutions years ago were such that there was a lot of violence and a lot of kids were getting hurt," Anderson said. "We want to make sure that the kids we’re serving are receiving better education."
Anderson said conditions are improving, and he said he’s happy the LSU AgCenter is there to help.
Michael Gaines, deputy director of the center, explained that the job of the center is to prepare these young people to come back into society as productive citizens.
Stressing that Louisiana has a high rate of juvenile offenders who are repeatedly placed in facilities such as the Bridge City Center, Gaines said, "what we’re looking for are programs that can effectively cut that rate."
"Character Counts! has been a proven program, but from what I understand, it has even been improved," Gaines said. "So we feel that the AgCenter can help us by the information that they’re going to provide, along with the benefits that the kids will receive from the process."
Wendi Bayhi, restorative justice coordinator at the center, said she also was glad to see that the LSU AgCenter’s character education program also is aligned with the state’s educational benchmarks.
"As a certified teacher, that rang a bell with me," Bayhi said, adding, "Plus, they have a community aspect that we’re targeting here through social services and the restorative justice measures."
Sarah Williams said success of the LSU AgCenter program is measured by an evaluation of delivery and an evaluation to determine how much students learned within a given period.
Chantel Williams said these character education programs are the first of a series of LSU AgCenter programs that will be presented at the facility.
"Our future plans include horticulture education and work, lessons from the JASON Project on coastal restoration, workforce preparation and financial management education," she said.
For further information on any of these LSU AgCenter programs, contact your parish LSU AgCenter Extension office or visit www.lsuagcenter.com.
Chantel Williams at (504) 838-1170 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Sarah Williams at (225) 578-2196 or email@example.com
Johnny Morgan at (504) 838-1170 or firstname.lastname@example.org