The Sarasota Police Department recently teamed up with Teen Court of Sarasota, Brotherhood of Men Mentor Group and Truly Valued, Inc to announce the launch of the Youth Empowerment Services program.
“We knew that we needed to step in and be a bigger part of a diversion program with juveniles if we are going to make any changes in their lives,” said Sarasota Police Chief Rex Troche.
The Y.E.S program focuses on providing mentorship and services to at-risk youth between the ages of 8 and 18 and their families. The program supports the Sarasota Police Department's crime prevention focus.
“We would arrest one child one day of the week, then a few days later we would arrest the same child again,” Troche said. “We are trying to stop the cycle.”
Derick Payne serves as coordinator for the Y.E.S Program where he assists and engages with youth that need guidance.
“We want to be able to assist them so that they know who they are,” Payne said. “That’s my goal, to be able to see these young people grow, move forward and move into where they are supposed to be.”
The Sarasota Police Department awarded $50,000 in Law Enforcement Trust Funds to the Y.E.S. partners and to fund Payne’s position as coordinator.
“I think we are all doing this together. So it’s not a ‘you’ it’s a ‘we’ and if we do this in our community, we can bring this community back to dominance. But we have to do this together,” Payne said.
Troche explained that this program is the start of something bigger.
“Our goal for the kids that participate in these programs is to graduate high school and go on to secondary school. We are trying to work with other NGOs (non-governmental organizations) to assist with scholarships as we move forward,” Troche said. “We are not taking this as a small piece, we are taking this as several steps to ensure success.”
He plans to develop better relationships with high school coaches so when a student gets in trouble, they can articulate what's best for the child. Troche adds that a chief’s advisory commission is in process where two young adults in each of the three programs will discuss community issues.
“We’ll meet once every two months and we’ll discuss issues within the community,” Troche said. “They are going to learn about government and how the government is run. We are going to empower these kids where they feel like they have the ability to give some direction and see change in their own community.”
Dariela is the Sarasota community reporter for the Observer. After graduating from Florida State University with degrees in English and education, she’s been a writer and an editor for publications in Tallahassee and Sarasota. In her free time she gives violin lessons.