Mayor claims youth plan targets all children, involves parenting centers

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Mayor A C Wharton unveiled Tuesday his plan to tackle and prevent youth violence.

He said the plan incorporates 24 programs, including some expanded versions of current plans and some new programs, too. The city held several meetings around town to get feedback from residents and youths about what should be done.

Wharton said most of the programs will be run out of one central office, unlike the current 57 city youth programs.

Wharton's new plan incorporates two possible parenting centers to help parents raise children right. He said the city has already secured funding, but his office cannot yet disclose the proposed locations.

The centers would offer counseling and other help 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"We want to make sure that no parent will be able to say, truthfully, that I wanted to do a better job with my children but nobody would help me," Wharton said.

Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael said most kids he sees in court come from dysfunctional homes.

"I want programs in the community that put me out of business. I will support anything that works," Michael said.

The centers would likely open in the spring.

Some other parts of the mayor's plan include a Memphis Youth City Council, incorporating 13 high schoolers from different council districts to advise the mayor and City Council.

The plan also incorporates a Summer Residential Program, where students can experiencing housing at a local college campus.

The plan would also expand the Memphis Ambassador Program, which "engages hundreds of youth from the seven city council districts each year," as well as the Summer Night Lights and Midnight Basketball Programs to give juveniles something to do in the evening.

The mayor's plan continues the conversation about the curfew, to explore securing legal permission to take some juveniles to a location other than Juvenile Court if they violate curfew but have not committed a delinquent act.

WREG asked the mayor if he expects the kids that are causing the problems to take part in the programs. Wharton said some of the programs, like the literacy program, targets young people that are failing.

"We don't have any programs up here for the good kids and bad kids. They're for children," Wharton said.

Wharton admitted the city has not done a good enough job in the past of raising public awareness of youth programs. The city is working with MLGW to possibly mail customers optional donation forms, so residents can contribute to youth programs.

Congressman Steve Cohen said he will continue to push for federal funding to support youth programs too.

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