Program gets kids involved in dealing with crime

DAN EAKIN

Staff Writer

A program which makes teenagers more aware of crime, how to deal with it and how to help others deal with it kicked off last month in Lewisville.

A total of 21 Lewisville private school students have joined the Operation Peace of Mind (OPM) Youth Network, a program which offers training on how to deal with crime and then sends those who complete the program into other areas to help other teenagers who may have been crime victims.

Landmark Christian Academy, located at 410 E. Church Street, has agreed to allow OPM Youth Network classes take place for one hour on Wednesdays. Separate classes for students in grades 6-9 and grades 10-12 are taught by Danese Tarbet, program director. The program, which deals with a different topic each week, takes one year to complete.

Using the Teens, Crime and Community (TCC) program curriculum, the students learn what different crimes are being committed in the community, and how to help make the community safer for themselves and others. They also learn how to counsel with friends who have been victims of crimes.

“Many are often too embarrassed to admit that they have been victims of crimes,” Tarbet said. “We teach the students that it is important to talk about it in order to help others.”

“According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 38.0 percent of crimes committed in schools and colleges from 2000-2004 were done by youths between the ages of 13-15 years old,” an OPM brochure states. “The second largest group was 16-18 year olds (30.7 percent).”

Operation Peace of Mind, founded by Sunny S. Ugochukwu, PhD., of Lewisville, is a non-profit organization that has initiated a comprehensive program which helps youths and parents work together to reduce crime and gang activities. OPM also designs programs that help youths identify their professional interests and assist in developing programs to help them achieve their vision and goals.

Several students in the OPM Youth Network and Tarbet came before the Lewisville City Council at a regular meeting last Monday night and asked for city support. Mayor Gene Carey and Council member Greg Tierney have previously expressed support for the program.

Ugochukwu and Tarbet will meet with Lewisville Police Chief Russ Kerbow next week to discuss the program with him.

Ugochukwu hopes the Lewisville Independent School District will eventually allow OPM Youth Network programs in Lewisville public schools and that other private schools will also approve the programs. He said the programs, which could be after school or on Saturdays, could also be taught at apartment complexes. Landmark Christian Academy has also agreed for OPM to have after-school classes there after enough students register.

Ugochukwu said two anonymous companies are now funding the program, but grants will be needed from various sources as the program expands to other schools, cities and even countries.

In Kaduna, Nigeria last year, more than 800 students attended the inauguration of the OPM Youth Network Crime Prevention Initiative at Gaskiya Skills International School. The program is called the Nigerian-American Center for Peace and Development.

After students in Lewisville complete the year-long program, they will be certified as OPM ambassadors and may be sent to Mexico, Nigeria and/or other countries. Students pay a $10 registration fee which goes into their own account. They may add to their personal accounts as the obtain donations and have fund-raisers to pay their travel expenses.

At Monday night’s Lewisville City Council meeting, three OPM Youth Network student officers spoke briefly, as did Tarbet.

“I am extremely excited to be a part of this life-changing opportunity,” Susan Shank, treasurer, told the council. “For me, influencing others, helping teens become aware of crime and how to prevent it and taking part in community projects is challenging, yet very rewarding.”

Forrest Taylor, OPM Youth Network vice president, told the council, “I urge you to support OPM’s mission in creating a framework to foster resiliency and provide teens with an opportunity to develop their leadership potential. A significant obstacle of teens in recent years has been the effect of crime on their daily lives.”

Vida Ugochukwu, OPM Youth Network secretary, told the council, “As a teenager, I and my friends come across many obstacles, and this program gives us information on how to deal with them. It also challenges us to help others deal with these issues as well.

“This program is a means to address some of the issues that are most pressing for today’s youth: handguns, gangs, sexual assault, conflict management, youth and police relationships, bullying, drugs, hate crimes, homeland security and more. Please consider supporting this program for our city.”

For information about the program, go to opmnig.org or call 972-221-7202.

Contact Dan Eakin at 972-628-4075 or at deakin@acnpapers.com.

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