Mentoring program aims to eliminate truancy - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Mentoring program aims to eliminate truancy

By Nick Kenney - bio | email | Facebook

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC-TV) - Memphis City Schools received some much need help with fighting truancy Tuesday, in the form of a program that will connect truant students with mentors.

"About 25-percent of the juvenile crimes were committed by young men and women that should have been at school," Assistant Shelby County District Attorney Amy Wierich said.

Some parents even get arrested and face a judge when their child is truant. But the DA's office says it's trying to fix the problem, through a program that connects truant children from eight middle schools with adult volunteer mentors.

"Forty-six percent of the children that are mentored are less likely to begin using illegal drugs," Harold Collins said. "Fifty-three percent are less likely to skip school."

The mentoring program is getting a boost through a partnership between the D.A.'s office and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

"We have to focus upon the children," the SCLC's Rev. Dwight Montgomery said. "It's all about the children."

The partnership secured a $61,000 Plough Foundation grant to hire mentor recruiter Chiquita Epps.

"I'll do everything I can to help them further their education," Epps said.

Epps will work to recruit more adult volunteer mentors. Prosecutors say 45 truant middle school students are on the waiting list for a mentor, and another 42 will soon join them.

"If there's a child out of school, we want them in school," said Ron Polk of Memphis City Schools.

MCS officials hope to reduce the number of truant students from nearly 30,000 to none, thus keeping parents out of court and perhaps cleaning up crime statistics.

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If you want to apply to be a mentor, you can find an application at scdag.com.

Or you can call Harold Collins directly at (901) 545-5987, or you can e-mail him at mentor@scdag.com or Harold.collins@scdag.com.

To qualify to be a mentor you must be at least 18 years old, a resident of the Memphis metropolitan area, pass an extensive background check, complete training, and spend a minimum of eight hours per month the person you are assigned to mentor.

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