'Flexible, but not bendable; task force seeks gang 'interventionists'
Who's willing to be the first to step in, to get a teenager out of trouble? Almost a dozen men and women have applied to be the 'foot soldiers' in Chattanooga's battle with gangs.
Friday, February 15th 2013, 6:43 PM EST
Friday, February 15th 2013, 8:28 PM EST
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -- She's been hoping to be a Lady Vol since she was 3.
So 13-year-old Dalewood Middle School student Shanquelle Stanfield would rather her work on the hardwood, speak for her.
"The person who gets my attention is someone that's funny," she says.
"I want a person who can understand my level of frustration," says Ooltewah Middle School's Daniel Garth, on the receiving end of a Shanquelle drive to the hoop at the East Chattanooga Rec Center.
The goals Brainerd High School senior Diamond Trice seeks, aren't on a basketball court.
"I'm looking for a mentor who understands me," she says. "Like, we're on the same page."
'The Future is Ours', Chattanooga's Gang Task Force, is seeking an 'interventionist', or Outreach Specialist, capable of identifying, and relating to any number of students who might be 'at risk' for truancy, academic failure or criminal activity.
"We're looking for somebody with passion," task force Outreach Coordinator Fred Houser says. "We're looking for somebody who sees this as a mission, and not a job."
Thursday, the task force began interviewing eleven candidates for the first of what could be five positions, each based at a Hamilton County high school. Brainerd High School will pilot the program.
"We have (as applicants) former educators, counselors, somebody with experience in juvenile probation," Houser says.
"We even have somebody with a military background."
The man or woman hired must be a college graduate. He/she will be required to live within Chattanooga city limits.
"A troubled past isn't necessarily a disqualifier, but those troubles have to be in the past," Houser says. "No arrests for the past seven years."
All for $30,000 per year. Without benefits.
"The person's gonna have to be hard-nosed," Houser explains. "At the same time, flexible. But not bendable."
'Outreach' means 'street-credible.' Last Friday, Eyewitness News introduced you to Steven 'Skip' Eberhardt, an ex-convict whose organization 'Saving Kids, Instilling Pride' recruits teenagers who are looking for a new start, and connects them with employers and agencies willing to offer that.
"You don't have to wear a suit to do this job," Houser says. "You can be as 'urban' as you want, but you still have to present a professional appearance."
"They need to have been successful," Diamond Trice says. "Being the part is more important than looking it."
"It has to be somebody older, say, in his 20's," Daniel Garth says. That way I know I have a wise choice."
Shanquelle Stanfield's finds her role models among the Rec Center staff.
"If I get in trouble, they'll get on me and tell me I need to do better," she says.
She and Daniel are fine with 'tough love.' What they can't handle, is being played.
"A person who doesn't care is someone who won't listen," Daniel says.
"I want a person who'll sit there and listen to whatever I have to say, so that I can get the weight off my chest."