Mentors hope to make positive impact despite negative culture

Murphey Middle School students learn from Quinton Sowell, who volunteers his time outside of work to help create a positive outcome.

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) –  Law enforcement officers have responded to a number of shootings throughout the CSRA and as school ends, some fear that crime could rise.

This week we heard Sheriff Richard Roundtree say that education helps with decreasing crime during graduation exercises at Charles B. Webster Detention Center.  Those who mentor students feel the same way and that’s why two adults are going out of their way to change how students think.

“There was a brother that cut school. He cut school with his friend. I will never forget it,” said Quinton Sowell, a Richmond County volunteer.

Sowell is hoping that his hour or so off work, telling this eye-opening story from his childhood will help students.

“They wrecked into a tree. One of the brothers lived and messed up his leg real bad. The other brother cut him in half,” he continued.

It sounds dramatic, but that’s the length this Murphey Middle School volunteer is willing to go in order to help kids who aren’t his own know make a better decision.

He explained, “They don’t have anybody guiding them in the home, like a male presence so they tend to go to the streets.”

Sowell is part of a group called Young Elders Mentoring. After completing Richmond County’s Volunteer program, they find time between work to head to Murphey and hang out.

“Just a man in general. Even the tone in a man’s voice can change an attitude some times.”

Whether it’s about going to a new school or plans for summer break, Sowell said helping the students identify with their culture will help decrease the draw to negative behaviors.

Down the way at Spirit Creek Middle School, changing behaviors starts with the mind.

School Counselor Dameon Clay told us, “A lot of times they are being over stimulated by the material that’s on their phones, their computers, what’s going on in class. When you think about it in the course of the day they don’t have a place where they can just be with their thoughts.”

It’s called the meditation or reset room. And you don’t lay on a rug and play a game after a physical altercation. Students end up here when they are angry, stressed and on the brink of something bad in order to let cooler heads prevail.

“Peer mediation. Just disagreements that peers have with one another. Somebody to hear both of their sides. Somebody just to help them come to a resolution and realize we’re not as mad as we thought we were we just needed to talk things out,” Clay explained.

Sowell emphasized that students make positive decisions this summer. And he’s hoping to connect with them while they are on break.

He’s holding a Juneteenth festival on Sunday, June 18th in Pendleton King Park in Augusta from noon to 6 p.m.  The family event, on Father’s Day, will have guest speakers and performers.

He also stressed that he can’t do it alone.  It takes a village and he’s calling on others to join in as volunteers too.

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