Students From Travis Hill School, Inside JJIC, Win Contest To Address Local Issues, Cite Mental Health

Source: JJIC
Seven high school students from Travis Hill School, the school inside the New Orleans juvenile jail (JJIC), entered a contest sponsored by the Aspen Institute and Bezos Family Foundation.

The project was to come up with solutions to major problems facing the city. The Travis Hill students’ solution was addressing mental health, because they see mental health as the root cause of many other problems, including gun violence.

The students also said, they shared these struggles with their parents and family members.

Last week the students won the Aspen Challenge and I congratulate them, along with Travis Hill Director Byron Goodwin, and Principal Shanell Dowling.

I strongly suspect the mental health issues the students face, are not mental illnesses, but rather the issues of an absent parent, lack of education/economic opportunity for themselves/their parents and basically nothing positive for kids to do.

I am not saying people, including kids, should not be held responsible for their actions, but I do know if we only deal with “what” they did and not “why” they did it, we will continue the chaos and crime we presently find ourselves in.

I was a New Orleans police officer, I made my share of arrests and as a judge and sentenced people to life imprisonment in Angola. But I also sentenced people to Angola where they obtained their GED and learned a skill trade through our reentry program.

I also work with Young Artist Movement, an art program Ron Bechet and I founded several years ago, pairing established artists with kids to enhance their art skills, increase their academic abilities and teach them the business of art.

We mentor and teach juveniles in JJIC how to paint murals to uplift the juvenile jail and pay them, because art is also a business.

If we want to be a safe city, then we must provide positive opportunities for our children to prevent and reduce juvenile crime.

We need a comprehensive holistic plan to do the following:

1) Prenatal care and early childhood learning across the city.

2) Summer camps in public schools.

3) Expanded year round NORD with park supervisors teaching sports, art, music, STEM and technology.

4) Making sure all our children read at grade level, their special needs are being addressed, we teach critical thinking and bring back skill, trades and technology back into the high schools.

If we do this the right way with the right people, we will reduce juvenile crime, and when you reduce juvenile crime, you reduce adult crime.

The Travis Hill students team name was, “The Voice Behind the Walls”.

We are silencing our kids.

We need leadership across the board without the drama, a comprehensive holistic plan without the finger pointing and answers with solutions, for those voices not only behind the walls, but for our city.

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