Mentors train to fight truancy in Mid-South schools

Jimmy Chambers was mentored as a child. Now he's an investigator for the District Attorney General's Office and he's training others to become mentors.

"If we as adults can come together as a community and start grabbing these boys and girls before they start going the wrong way, I guarantee you that we will have one of the best cities in the United States," said Chambers.

District Attorney General Bill Gibbons sent out letters asking the faith-based community for help. About 700 people signed up for his new Mentoring Initiative for System Involved Youth.

"We think that focusing on truant kids at the middle school level and matching them up with mentors, we can have an impact on the juvenile crime rate," Gibbons said.

Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church held its first training workshop Saturday afternoon with 30 participants. Next, they'll do background checks on all the mentors.

"Not only do we want to provide good quality mentors, but they must be able to adhere to the laws of our community and our country," said Harold Collins of Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church.

The mentors will be matched up with truants at three pilot schools: Chickasaw, Cypress and Hickory Ridge Middle Schools.

"The gang has their family and they're reaching out to the kids and they're saying, 'you could be our family if you get with us.' These mentors are the same thing. They're reaching out to the kids," said Chambers.

The University of Memphis will track the program's progress. The first pairing of mentors and truants begins at the end of the month. Then, more mentors will be trained.