Missouri vets, troubled youths learn from each other
Sunday, June 17, 2012
COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — A group of juvenile offenders and military veterans learned this month they have a lot in common as they continue rehabilitation from substance abuse and criminal activity.
Six participants in Job Point’s Civic Youth Corps helped the veterans with a few hours of yard work. While the joint effort provided the also-troubled veterans an opportunity to mentor the Job Point students ages 18-21 on the direction of their lives, the eight veterans learned something along the way, too.
“We’re a lot alike. Some of us have drinking, drugs and legal issues, too. We’re all coming from ruts in our lives,” said Faaron Stansberry, an Army veteran. “We just talked a little bit about our experiences. I hope it helps them.”
The veterans explained they also “just got lost along the way” after completing their military service. Some have been fighting substance abuse problems for more than 20 years, and today find themselves participating in a work therapy program through Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital.
The cleanup took place at the transitional home where they live. It is provided through the hospital. When the veterans are not working at the hospital and completing volunteer work, Stansberry said they are searching for employment.
After meeting the Job Point students, Stansberry said he and his fellow veterans have a lot more advice to give and want to set up more occasions to mentor.
With a younger brother and two children to be a role model to, Xzayvyoughn Shackelford, 18, said he wants to work with the veterans more as he attempts to overcome a lengthy juvenile record and get a business degree. He enrolled into the Civic Youths Corps after realizing he hit rock bottom during a two-week stay in jail.
Through the three-year U.S. Department of Labor grant, Shackelford and nine others are working toward their GED certificates — while conducting 430 hours of community service — and eventually employment, said Demetria Stephens, assistant director of Civic Youth Corps. The program, which began in July 2011, also addresses substance abuse, anger management and other obstacles that derail teens on their way toward become productive members of society. It is open to youths aged 18 to 21 who have had involvement with the juvenile justice system within the past year or foster youths who were juvenile offenders before the age of 17.
Shackelford was 16 years old when he dropped out of Hickman High School. He now enjoys class, he said, and considers himself a pretty good math student. He wants to own and run an auto shop.
“I burned my bridges, so I had to build them back up,” he said of his reason for entering the program. “I sat in jail for two weeks and realized the path I was heading down. When I got out I had to change for me and change for my family.”