Youth Learn About Building Safer Communities

Linda Benedict, Johnson, Juanita, Bairnsfather, Deborah M., Haynes, Sheila M.  |  11/30/2006 2:44:44 AM

News Release Distributed 12/19/2003

OAK GROVE – Youth from Northeast Louisiana are learning what it means to build a safer community with the help of the LSU AgCenter, the National Crime Prevention Council and the Teens, Crime and Community Organization.

The teens met last week (Dec. 12-13) at the Thomas Jason Lingo Community Center to hear Shannon Lager, a trainer from New Jersey, explain how the teens can be instrumental in turning their communities into safer places to live.

The youth are from the LSU AgCenter’s 4-H Junior Leader Club, Southern University’s YES program and other youth groups.

The program they are participating in, known as "Louisiana’s Youth-Adult Partnership," guides young people on an exciting and energizing path of "Community Building." The project helps young people recognize the gifts and assets they have and encourages them to use those assets in their communities to make their world a safer place to live.

"Whenever you’re a part of a team or community, what you do reflects on others who are a part of the same team or community," Lager said. "For example, if you cheat, the whole team pays. What you do can make a difference in how people perceive your team or community."

The recent training is titled "Community Works: Smart Teens Make Safer Communities." It teaches teens life skills through lessons on conflict management, police and community, crime prevention and reporting, how to help crime victims, substance abuse and drug dealing, hate crimes, gun violence, leadership, shoplifting, gangs, communication skills, dating violence, property crimes, intimidation/bullying and community action projects.

The "Community Works" curriculum involves 31 highly interactive sessions. Each session is activity based and is relevant to the lives of young people, said Debbie Bairnsfather, 4-H coordinator for the LSU AgCenter’s Northeast Region.

"The youth learn from the experiences and insights of other youth and teachers," Bairnsfather said. "We want the youth who are participating in this program to bring the lessons they learned back to their schools, 4-H Short Course, 4-H camp and other places to teach other youth how to make their communities safer."

The goals of the "Community Works" program are to provide a practical understanding of crime and crime prevention that’s useful in young people’s lives, teach teens to be resources for each other, help them see how to interact positively with community members, develop young people’s communication and problem-solving skills, promote personal and group success in their communities, strengthen young people’s awareness of their communities’ resources, and encourage youth to focus on their leadership roles in the community.

Kevin Sledge, 17, of Oak Grove, and Chris Ballard, 18, of Forest, said they plan to bring the lessons they learned back to their schools.

"I believe a program such as this would benefit me and my community," Sledge said. "I can go back and spread the message and, hopefully, help other teen-agers.

"I want to make a difference, and this will help me do that," Sledge stressed. "Making a difference starts with one person, and I want to be that person to make a difference in my community."

Ballard agrees.

"I plan to go back and teach this program to other youth organizations at my school," he said. "This is taking positive action, and it’s something we can take back and teach other youth."

Sheila Haynes, an LSU AgCenter agent in West Carroll Parish, worked with the Louisiana Lieutenant Governor’s Office to bring the program to Louisiana youth.

"This is a program that will help everyone," Haynes said. "And it will give young people something positive they can do in their communities."

Juanita Johnson of the LSU AgCenter’s state 4-H office in Baton Rouge, said plans are being developed to conduct this program to parishes all over Louisiana.

To find out how you can help bring this program to youth in your community – or to find out about other youth development opportunities available through the LSU AgCenter’s 4-H program – contact your parish LSU AgCenter office or visit


Debbie Bairnsfather at (318) 493-2908 or
Sheila Haynes at (318) 428-3571 or
Juanita Johnson at (225) 578-2196 or
A. Denise Coolman at (318) 644-5865 or

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