Mecklenburg Council of Elders is a champion for at-risk youth.
As reported by The Charlotte Observer, the nonprofit organization based in Charlotte, North Carolina, works vigorously with the criminal justice sector, launching a diversion program for the betterment of at-risk youth and to create “viable citizens.”
The juvenile court intervention program began two years ago with just 45 students. Now, educators hope to reach 150 students who have faced challenges with childhood abuse, gun violence, mental health, anger management, and more. Mecklenburg Council of Elders “provide services to residents of Mecklenburg County by way of seminars and events designed to raise awareness of their rights and options as citizens—regardless of past involvement with the law,” the council’s website states.
Executive Director Maria Macon said the biggest problem in Charlotte right now is young people getting guns and using them. To help put a stop to the issue, the diversion program works with judges, social workers, and the community to assist the students in coping with adverse experiences.
“When you talk to many of the young people that are in jail or in court and waiting to be sentenced, something happened in their childhood that has triggered an adverse thought in their mind. And they enter into these gangs, into shooting,” Macon said.
In classrooms with children aged 8 to 21, students gain access to various classes, including recantation therapy, which is taught in a Locked Out Love group within the jail and juvenile detention center. Camille Stephens, who leads the group, teaches moral recantation therapy and Work Smart, which focuses on soft skills for the workplace.
“What I hope kids get out of the program is to be able to utilize the tools that are provided to keep the recidivism down to nothing,” said Stephens.
Tysha Pressley’s Abusive Childhood Experiences class helps students understand trauma and how to cope.
“It’s really an amazing time, just coming together and helping them to kind of understand themselves a little bit more,” said Pressley, a licensed clinical mental health counselor. “That’s what I really hope that they get out of it. I really hope that they get that, number one, (…) they matter, and they’re not just one dimensional, they are three-dimensional beings.”
The 2022 program started April 4 and will extend for six months free of charge. A community referral is required to be considered.