• 61°

P.R.O.U.D. to connect jobs to locals: District attorney teams with former sheriff to launch effort this month

LAPLACE — District Attorney Bridget A. Dinvaut considers crime prevention reactive instead of proactive when convicted individuals have greater access to economic resources than at-risk youth.

She’s noticed more young adults falling into crime in St. John the Baptist Parish and surrounding areas, a trend influenced by roadblocks to meaningful employment.

In the interest of public safety, Dinvaut is partnering with former St. John Sheriff Wayne L. Jones to establish St. John P.R.O.U.D., a crime preventive initiative aiding the transition from high school to the local workforce.

Short for Providing Resources and Opportunities for Upflow and Development, P.R.O.U.D. begins with 20-hours of classroom sessions and ends in lucrative employment.

“We’re going to use the resources within the District Attorney’s Office to identify individuals we can reinvest in,” Dinvaut said.

Those contributing to St. John P.R.O.U.D. include, back row, from left, Darryl Isom, Anna Loup Walls, Robin Bailey, Steve Cupid, front row, St. John the Baptist Parish Schools Superintendent Kevin George, District Attorney Bridget A. Dinvaut and former sheriff Wayne L. Jones.

“In that 17 to 25 age group, crime has become the economic opportunity for them when they are not in school or working. They might want to be in school but don’t have the financial resources. If we help them become successful and productive, it will divert them from becoming involved in crime.”

The program is cost-free and based on a referral system, Dinvaut said, adding she hopes to kick off the first of a series of quarterly classes at the end of this month.

Approximately 10 participants will be chosen for the first round of classes, according to Jones.

In more than 30 years working in law enforcement, Jones hasn’t seen a cost-free program that provides the same services as St. John P.R.O.U.D.

Wayne L. Jones, District Attorney Bridget A. Dinvaut and Superintendent Kevin George are “all in” for St. John P.R.O.U.D., a crime preventive workforce initiative for young pople ages 17 to 25.

“We have 22 or 23 participating partners in industry who are giving these young people the opportunity to work in the plants and make $14 to $18 an hour,” Jones said. “They’ll be laborers and helpers working for subcontractors, and we hope they have the mindset to market themselves, get the experience and climb up the ladder.”

Community partnerships offer employment through clerical, commercial, electrical, industrial, landscaping, scaffolding and welding opportunities, according to executive administrative assistant Robin Bailey.

Jones said the P.R.O.U.D. program is a viable option for those who want to jump straight into the workplace after high school or build a savings to pursue higher education.

Before participants are placed in the workplace, they agree to a background check, learn safety skills and undergo a 20-hour “soft skills for employment” course at the District Attorney’s Office. Engaging discussion topics include personal enhancement, caring for others, responsibility, diversity, goals, government, ethics and job placement dress code.

Wayne Jones, former St. John Sheriff and owner of Wayne L. Jones Professional Consulting Services, L.L.C. will teach the bulk of a 20-hour soft skills course as part of the St. John P.R.O.U.D. program.

St. John Parish Public Schools Superintendent Kevin George said he’s committed to promoting St. John P.R.O.U.D. to high school students.

“We need something concrete for these kids to do after they graduate high school,” George said.

“We’ve worked hard to get kids more involved with our career and technical education programs. Sometimes it’s important to go back to the basics and teach them about how to dress for work and how to set goals.”

Dinvaut said office staffers are working closely with school counselors to seek referrals.

P.R.O.U.D. participants must be between 17 and 25, reside in St. John Parish, unemployed or underemployed, TWIC eligible and have a high school diploma or equivalency.

College graduates unable to find employment are welcome to participate, Dinvaut said.

She said the program is not for individuals currently in the criminal justice system or with other offenses that would prevent them from working in a plant.

Referral forms can be picked up at the District Attorney’s Office, 1342 River Road in Reserve.

For more information, call 985-652-9757.