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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, December 6, 2023


The U.S. Department of Justice has awarded the territory's Beacon Schools program a $197,304 grant to implement a project to keep at-risk junior high youths from dropping out of school.
The project has mentoring, building self-esteem and changing attitudes at its core, V.I. Beacon Schools executive director Valerie George told the V.I. Independent. It's targeted to reach boys ages 12 to 16 in grades seven and eight who have a record of school detentions, absenteeism and below average grades, as well as minimal family-based support, she said.
According to George, the Juvenile Mentoring Program — or JUMP — is a pro-active approach to preventing the kinds of problems that can only be addressed in the criminal justice system, she said. The objective is "to prevent youth from reaching that point," she said.
A coordinator will be hired to oversee the work of counselors at the territory's pilot Beacon Schools that have been in operation for the last year and a half. The Beacon School for St. Thomas is E. Benjamin Oliver.
Plans call for volunteer mentors to be assigned to all JUMP students and to meet with their mentees as least one to two hours a week for 12 weeks. To make the program viable, home- based support is essential, George added. "We will only work with students with their parents and their guardians," she said. "It will help parents be able to communicate and help their child."

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