Pat Sylvester, principal investigator for NFusion, a federal and state program aimed at improving the lives and educational opportunities of youth, is targeting its message to the public at large and families who might not be aware of the program's existence.
Sylvester appeared recently before the DeSoto County Board of Supervisors to update the program.
"We are dealing with that child in the family context so we feel we will have no difficulty in meeting the goal of 400 clients within four years," Sylvester told supervisors. "We just want to let them know we are here."
The NFusion effort, a four-year program funded through a $4 million grant, is aimed at breaking the cycle of drug use, despondency and despair in the state's No. 1 county for heroin overdose deaths.
Such devastating habits start while children are young. The NFusion program serves children ages 5 through 21.
The program targets at-risk youth with counseling and job placement, as well as helping to curb the damaging effects of illegal drugs and juvenile crime on the lives of young people. The latest statistics show that there are more than 176 children and youths enrolled in the program.
The NFusion program receives a draw-down in grant funds of $983,000 per year.
During the brief national federal shutdown there was a concern the shutdown could affect federal funds for the program but that proved not to be the case.
There are now more than 200 participants in the program.
Of the program's participants, 71 percent are male and 29 percent are female. A total of 53.2 percent of the participants are African-American and 39.2 percent are white. Multiracial participants total 4.1 percent.
Sylvester also discussed the possibility of developing a "ropes course" for participants, the cost of which would total about $200,000.
The ropes course at Camp Currier, owned and operated by the Chickasaw Council of the Boy Scouts of America and a similar course for adults at Parkwood Behavioral Health in Olive Branch was discussed during the Board of Supervisors meeting.
Supervisors Lee Caldwell and Mark Gardner said they knew of Sylvester's good track record when she was in her capacity at the Health Department and wanted to be supportive of her efforts with NFusion.
The same time, Gardner reiterated that supervisors also had to be good stewards and a watchdog of the public tax dollars.
Robert Lee Long is Community Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune. He may be contacted at email@example.com or at 662-429-6397, Ext. 252.