Nearly two dozen Baton Rouge teens spent Saturday morning learning life lessons from mentors before heading outdoors at BREC’s Perkins Road Community Park to play flag football and compete in other sports.
It was the second month of competition in the Youth Peace Olympic, and the teens, parents and volunteers packed meeting rooms at the Perkins Road complex to hear from mentors hoping to inspire them to stay on the right path.
Frank Johnson, co-founder of New Orleans-based Courtesy Grows, talked about keeping a positive outlook on life. And Sid Newman, executive director of the Greater Baton Rouge Crime Stoppers, talked about how the teens can stop bullying in their own schools by calling Crime Stoppers.
Following lunch cooked by Capt. Andrew Stevens, commander of the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office’s Gardere Substation, and handed out by other volunteers, the teens got to the actual games.
They competed in flag football, sand volleyball and tennis and let their creative personalities loose during art sessions.
The Youth Peace Olympic is a six-month program in which teens ages 10-16 learn life lessons from mentors on topics like bullying and drug abuse prevention. They also participate in sporting events on the fourth Saturday of each month to earn points toward medals at the award ceremony in September.
It’s based on a similar program implemented in north Philadelphia in 2011 by five churches that banded together to combat rampant violence. It combines sports with teens learning skills like conflict resolution, anger management and financial literacy.
The games began in Baton Rouge two months ago when a few dozen adolescents signed up at BREC’s Hartley/Vey Park off Gardere Lane then participated in a walk down Ned and Keel avenues in Gardere along with volunteers, law enforcement and their parents for a peace march in an effort to bring awareness to the games.
Organizer Alma Stewart said about 56 teens have signed up for the six-month program, but scheduling conflicts, like church functions and school track and field events, precluded a lot of them from attending Saturday.
Stewart said some young people need more help with issues at home or in life than she, the mentors and the games can provide. But it’s a good first step.
“It’s a way of reaching those kids,” Stewart said.
In the first session, Johnson exhorted the teens and parent to keep a positive outlook and demeanor in their daily life because how they act when times are good are generally how they will react when times are bad.
“Positive demeanor is something that happens when we practice it,” Johnson said.
Newman talked to the teens about the Crime Stoppers program, noting that operates in schools and that teens who are the victims of bullying or have witnessed bullying incidents can report the incidents anonymously to Crime Stoppers.
He gave as an example the case of a teen who texted Crime Stoppers at the end of the school year to say another teen was considering suicide because of bullying at school.
The tip led law enforcement authorities to speak to the parents, who had no idea of the suicidal thoughts and they were able to help the teen.
“They saved that person,” Newman said.
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