Poverty in St. John Parish starts with splintered families

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 24, 2006


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE — The St. John United Way and Entergy hosted a &#8220Solutions to Poverty” meeting on Wednesday at Louisiana Technical College in Reserve to discuss ways to help overcome poverty in St. John Parish.

St. John United Way Executive Director Dean Torres and Entergy Customer Service Representative Tammy Frank led the meeting, discussing mostly ways to enhance educational experiences in the schools.

Big voices in the meeting came from Maj. Mike Tregre with the St. John Parish Sheriff’s Office; Rev. Neil Bernard with New Wine Christian Fellowship; Whitney Joseph and Bruno Burrell, both with the Assessor’s Office; Dennis Murphy, LTC’s Dean; and Raynette Lennix, Director of Health and Human Services of St. John Parish.

Bernard said he thinks most of the problems start in the family.

&#8220There are no father figures,” Bernard said. &#8220There are no basic union of families. Did you know the percentages of families with the same mother and father went from 70 percent to 40 percent? We need to focus on families in order to focus on poverty.”

Burrell said it would be a good idea to identify who is

really in need of help, and who is at risk, because the rest of the population will take care of themselves.

Lennix said a way to focus on poverty through education is by having classes that promote job-ready skills, so that when students get out of school they have a skill and are ready to work.

Murphy agreed and said education should be hands-on and work towards a career.

Tregre brought up the fact that more focus needs to be on allowing students to spend a couple of hours at a business, job shadowing.

&#8220There needs to be more career days at the schools,” Tregre said. &#8220Give the students options, and show them what’s out there. Another idea, is promoting a second language, especially Spanish. Having the students learning Spanish will not only enhance their education, but prepare them for the future.”

Torres said all the ideas brought up are great, and agreed to comments about bringing outsiders from the business world into the classrooms was a good idea, but that it would need the participation of a lot of businesses for it to work.

Towards the end of the meeting, some of those in attendance got worked up, because even though ideas are put on the table, sometimes it doesn’t seem like enough.

&#8220We need to have more meetings,” Tregre said. &#8220There are people that need to be here that aren’t here today. We need to bring the kids here, let them speak their minds and tell us what they think we should do to help.”

Torres said he plans to contact the key people who need to be at these meetings, and agreed to have meetings in the near future to continue the discussion.

Most agreed with Tregre, and Joseph shared what he thought was the true problem. &#8220Love is the answer,” Joseph said. &#8220We need to care, share and love one another. The teachers don’t love the students like they used to. We are living in a nation full of greedy people who do not care about one another. We don’t want to solve poverty, if we did we could do it tomorrow.”