So­cial ser­vices get kids ex­cited to head back to school

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By TIF­FANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @Tif­fIndyNews

Charles County De­part­ment of So­cial Ser­vices (CCDSS) held a back to school jam last week to get com­mu­nity teens ready for the new school year. Sup­plies and re­sources were free at Re­gency Fur­ni­ture Sta­dium in Wal­dorf.

On Aug. 9, the CCDSS Back-to-School Jam for youth ages 14-21 that are in fos­ter care or in­volved in the other lo­cal ser­vices, along with a wide ar­ray of com­mu­nity part­ners such as Charles County Sher­iff’s Of­fice, Calvert County Sher­iff’s Of­fice, Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land, Charles County Pub­lic Schools, Charles County De­part­ment of Health and a few of the youth from Calvert County and St. Mar y’s County all joined in on the fun as well.

“The back to school jam is the be­gin­ning of a new era for the Charles County com­mu­nity and its re­la­tion­ship with the youth that we serve,” said Therese Wolf, di­rec­tor of CCDSS. “The De­part­ment of So­cial Ser vices is com­mit­ted to cre­at­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for each of our young adults to es­tab­lish re­la­tion­ships in the com­mu­nity that will help them set and achieve goals. This is all about work­ing to­gether.”

“It’s very crit­i­cally im­por­tant for the Charles County Sher­iff’s Of­fice to be in­volved in young peo­ple’s lives be­cause chil­dren are not just our fu­ture, they are our present,” said Charles County Sher­iff Troy Berry (D). “We want to en­cour­age them to stay in school and be the best that they can be since some­one did it for us when we were younger. It’s re­ally im­por­tant for par­ents and chil­dren to know that their com­mu­nity lead­ers sup­port them.”

Imani Booker and Pablo Gary or­ga­nized the event filled with mu­sic, games and in­for­ma­tion for teens, such as how to ob­tain a driver’s li­cense and stu­dent in­tern­ship and job op­por­tu­ni­ties. Booker and Gary said they don’t want stu­dents to miss out on any op­por­tu­nity to bet­ter them­selves.

“The youth got a tan­gi­ble feel of the re­sources that they have around them,” Gary said. “Me and Imani Booker worked hand-in-hand on this be­cause we are try­ing to change the men­tal­ity in Wal­dorf so that it’s a fam­ily men­tal­ity where they have con­tin­u­ous re­sources. I was in fos­ter care from [age] 15 to 21, so I un­der­stand the need and when there’s a need you have to re­act.”

“We want to get the youth ex­cited and thrilled about go­ing back to school,” Booker said. “We want the youth to know that we are here to stand be­hind them and sup­port them through their ed­u­ca­tional jour­ney. We are pro­vid­ing them with school sup­plies from pen­cils and pens to back­packs and raf­fle items, iPads and tech­nol­ogy they are ex­cited to win. Our youth have a lot of strug­gles they go through so we want them to know this is their vil­lage and all hands are con­nected.”

Teens, adults and fam­i­lies played kick­ball, tugo-war, com­pleted sev­eral trust ac­tiv­i­ties and walked away with re­sources to keep handy. Del. Edith Pat­ter­son (D-Charles) was there to dis­trib­ute in­for­ma­tion about del­e­gate and sen­a­to­rial schol­ar­ships and ap­pli­ca­tions avail­able to young peo­ple.

“As a leg­is­la­tor, we of­fer pro­grams and fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance for stu­dents who are in fos­ter care or need help from the state,” Pat­ter­son said. “My big­gest con­cern is for fos­ter kids who age out and get­ting them in col­lege. We have funds within the bud­get to give in­di­vid­ual schol­ar­ships to stu­dents who are grad­u­at­ing se­niors.”

Like Pat­ter­son, many par­ents present thought the event was en­ter­tain­ing but had a se­ri­ous mes­sage. Theresa Stevens, a Wal­dorf res­i­dent who is also a fos­ter par­ent, brought her fam­ily to the back to school jam to take ad­van­tage of the re­sources be­ing pro­vided.

“I think it’s an out­stand­ing event that gives chil­dren an op­por­tu­nity to go from ta­ble to ta­ble, us­ing the scav­enger hunt-type of theme and learn about dif­fer­ent op­por­tu­ni­ties that’s af­forded to them,” Stevens said.

“This is my first time be­ing at the event and I like it so far,” said Kiara Stevens, 16, a stu­dent at Grace Chris­tian Acad­emy and Stevens’ bi­o­log­i­cal daugh­ter. “I saw the driv­ing ed­u­ca­tion classes and I have my per­mit so I was glad to see that in­for­ma­tion.”

La Plata res­i­dents Ryan Janes and his wife Stephanie Janes brought his two chil­dren and his four younger sib­lings, of whom he re­cently gained cus­tody. He said a case worker from Child Pro­tec­tive Ser­vices told his fam­ily about the event and ad­vised them to get some school sup­plies for the kids.

“We have a lot of chil­dren to pro­vide for, so it’s nice to be able to come here and get sup­plies for school and other re­sources,” Janes said. “This keeps them ac­tive and it’s good to be at an event where we can func­tion as a fam­ily.”

Case work­ers from the Charles County De­part­ment of So­cial Ser­vices hand out school sup­plies and in­for­ma­tion for stu­dents at the back to school jam held Aug. 9 at Re­gency Fur­ni­ture Sta­dium in Wal­dorf.

STAFF PHO­TOS BY TIF­FANY WAT­SON

On Aug. 9, Sher­iff Troy Berry (D) and mem­bers of the Charles County Sher­iff’s Of­fice spoke with lo­cal teens at the Charles County De­part­ment of So­cial Ser­vices’ back to school jam at Re­gency Fur­ni­ture Sta­dium in Wal­dorf.

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