DeKalb ministers tackle troubled teens

DeKalb County Police Chief Cedric Alexander is recruiting ministers to partner with schools to create an after-school program to help steer troubled teens straight.

A group of ministers made the announcement Thursday for developing a program in which their congregations will partner with high schools to identify students whose truancy or troubles with the law will likely lead them to prison rather than graduation.

“The church has basically been silent on crime,” said Bishop Quincy Carswell, senior pastor at Covenant Ministries Cathedral. “We’re doing a lot of funerals.”

Like many metro Atlantans, the ministers said they are disturbed by high-profile crimes that have been linked to juveniles. Alexander, DeKalb’s new police chief, approach them to ask if they would do more community outreach. They agreed to develop a program, which would be coordinated by the Rev. Kerwin Lee of Berean Christian Church in Stone Mountain.

“I’m not talking about the kid who is a B student and who wants to be an A student,” Alexander said. “I’m talking about the kid who is barely coming to school.”

This month, police arrested two older teenagers —one 18, the other 19 — in the shooting death of Jerrick Jackson, 47, who was shot during a robbery in northwest Atlanta. The death of Jackson, the brother of DeKalb megachurch pastor Wiley Jackson, was part of a string of crimes that has put Atlanta, DeKalb and Decatur residents on edge this year. In the spring, police arrested a 16-year-old in the killing of 18-year-old Dominique Boyer, a Columbia High School senior.

The ministers were short of specifics, saying they would outline the program in upcoming weeks. In a nutshell, they described an ecumenical effort, with participating churches, synagogues and mosques working with schools in their districts to identify youth to work with after school in what they said would be a secular program.

“The church has got make a difference,” Carswell said. “If we don’t, I believe the county will go to the dogs.”

Some of those students may be failing academically, some might be homeless and some may have been arrested, ministers said. State Sen. Ron Ramsey, chief legal officer for DeKalb schools, said principals would cooperate with the effort.

Collette Gundy, who runs Green Pastures Christian Ministries, said she has been burglarized multiple times. She didn’t know what impact to expect from the effort, but she said ministers and lay folk need to at least try to take a bite out of crime.

“We might be spitting in the fire,” she said, “but at least we’re spitting.”

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