During a virtual meeting Wednesday evening, Feb. 17, Commissioner President Reuben B. Collins II and others discussed ways to offer more for area youth.
The recent shooting death of one unnamed youngster who was part of a local youth recreation organization was mentioned by three of the participants.
“The young man played ball with my son,” Collins (D) said.
Rico Prout, vice president of Southern Maryland H.E.A.T. Athletic Program, spoke of “killings by gun violence” last year. According to data from the Charles County Sheriff’s Office, there were 20 general homicides in the county in 2020, including four teens killed in apparent murders and two others who died due to apparent accidental gunshots.
Prout called for building a county youth center with four satellite centers.
It was noted that the Southern Maryland SportPlex & Learning Center opened in Waldorf six months ago, offering basketball, soccer, track and field and tennis.
Although some said that Charles County does a good job with youth athletic programs, there are glaring needs for mental health and mentorship programs.
Prout said that, according to the Boys and Girls Clubs, it would cost $425,000 a year to fund a youth center.
Neighboring St. Mary’s County is currently going through a years-long process of building a community youth center, partnering with YMCA.
“We request community and county support,” Prout said, noting that evidence-based curriculum would be used at such a center.
James Brent of the St. Charles Bears football and cheer organization said such an endeavor requires a strong grant writer. He noted that athletic programs help kids until age 13 or 14, but then some lose their way.
“You have 100 to 200 kids you deal with every year,” he said.
Jordan Alston said that earlier in his life a man took him under his wing and was his mentor while growing up. “I was able to be a college basketball athlete and graduate at the top of my class,” he said.
The county already spends $4.7 million on youth programs and services, Collins said. “The county can certainly invest more in our most important resource,” he said, adding the county’s fiscal 2022 budget planning process is underway.
“This is just a start,” added Collins, who hosted last week’s forum on the county’s Facebook page.