Leaders from the non-profit and faith communities came together with law enforcement officials to talk about ways to keep black young people on the right track.
The Black Family Summit held Feb. 25 at the G.W Carver Center in Bunnell was billed as a discussion on "how to save our minority youth from the school to prison pipeline."
Through a series of workshops, informal dialogue and vendors set up to offer information and resources to parents and other community members concerned about the issue, the summit did just that.
Representatives from the Circuit 7 Department of Juvenile Justice led one of the more well attended workshops, which talked about the reality of young people who end up, for one reason or another, coming into contact with law enforcement and/or the court system. DJJ Chief David Kerr spoke in particular about the difference between a civil citation and an actual arrest. For youth without a previous record, the lesser civil citation does not stay on a young person's record -- therefore, not endangering chances for future success in college, the military or other life pursuits -- and offers a chance for early intervention. Some of the offenses eligible for civil citation status for individuals under 18 include minor theft, simple assault, trespassing, or disorderly conduct.
Michael Conville, a probation officer with the DJJ, said that more than punitive oversight, a majority of his job focuses on talking to minority teens who find themselves in difficult situations and trying to get them to understand the seriousness of bad choices, as well as how they might engage in more positive behaviors.
"But they have to be a willing participant to where they want to go," Conville noted, adding, "You want to frontload prevention and catch it so that it [behavioral offenses] does not progress."
Sammy Cooper, a deputy sheriff in the Flagler County Sheriff's Office, said that in his 24 years on the job he has seen the availability of activities for minority teens increase across the area.
"The options are there; they just need to be supported by the parents or grandparents of these kids," said Cooper, who was recruited as a minority officer in Flagler after seven years in the military.
Other sessions were presented by pastors from local churches and other community leaders who offered, if not solutions, suggestions for how families, school leaders, and others who work with youth can help to keep kids on the right track.
That proactive approach was what organizers of the summit hoped to emphasize most. Groups who provide services and outlets for youth were on hand to provide information and sign up applications. Some of those providers included the Flagler County Youth Center, Volusia Flagler Boys & Girls Club, and Focus on Flagler Youth Coalition.
The summit was sponsored by the Flagler County Juvenile Justice Councils, DMC Committee, and Justice For All.