STARKVILLE, Miss. (WCBI) – Tuesday, Oktibbeha County and the other branches of the tri-county NAACP hosted a community event they called “Become a Village Maker” aimed at putting area youth on the right path.
“We cannot talk anymore,” Oktibbeha County NAACP branch president Yulanda Haddix said. “We must do something.”
The rise in violent crimes involving young people during 2021 is part of the motivation for the program. And while Haddix does call the recent trend disturbing, she says it is a problem that has been building over time.
“The rash of crimes that young adults are committing, even breaking into cars, or even breaking into houses, they’re looking for something,” she said. “Everyone wants to be valued.”
The Oktibbeha County jail currently holds 7 people below the age of 20…more than 10 percent of their total inmate population.
The sheriff’s office confirms those numbers are higher than usual.
To make sure that number doesn’t grow, Haddix and the other branches of the tri-county NAACP hosted the community event.
“I don’t want to see a 15-year-old go to jail for 30 years,” she said.
Tuesday’s event featured instructions on building resumes, applying for jobs, parenting classes, job training and money management.
“If you can earn a way to get that, we’re going to help you get there,” Haddix said. “We don’t want you to commit a crime to get the basic needs you need.”
But she said their most important initiative are their ongoing mentorship programs.
“We have leaders in the community who have experience,” she said. “Retired football players, educators, teachers…They say, ‘I’m going to give some time to train these young adults.’ Even the teenagers that go to the same school, college graduates, say ‘I want to give my time.'”
Haddix says that is the level of commitment to the community that it will take to stop the recent streak of violence.
“I always tell people, the change you want to see has to be the change that starts with, definitely me and with everyone else.”
Haddix emphasized how crucial having the support of area leaders like the mayor, Aldermen and local law enforcement have been regarding these types of movements.