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Truancy on decline thanks to Family and Youth Service Center

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BATON ROUGE - With nearly 7,000 truant kids among the East Baton Rouge Parish school population last academic year, the problem of absenteeism in the Capital Area is a serious one. Those numbers are already on the decline this school year, and it is partly due to the efforts of the Family and Youth Service Center in Baton Rouge.

18-year-old Damon Sparrow is a a volunteer at the center. At one point, he says he was headed down a wrong path in life and often missed school. He even spent some time behind bars as a teenager.

"There were days in school where I didn't even want to go because I was in fear of being picked on because I was smaller than everybody," said Sparrow. "It's not something that I'm afraid of or ashamed of saying because we're all human. We all go through these things."

Sparrow's past problems are mirrored among many communities in EBR Parish with the issue of truancy affecting thousands of families throughout the area. It is programs on offer throughout the year from the Family and Youth Service Center, ranging from anger management to social development education sessions, that can put a dent in the spectre of truancy and ultimately keep kids in class.

"It's not so much the child who is the problem child," said Family and Youth Service Center Director Roxson Welsh. "That's a child with a problem, and just moving that word changes the way you look at the child, and that's what we do here. We try to remove the obstacles and try to provide options."

Although Sparrow was able to make some personal changes and solve his truancy problems without external intervention, for some families like Paula Ortiz it can be an ongoing issue.

Her son, Jonathan, has been struggling with going to school for the last three years.

"Jonathan is still not wanting to go to school or get up in the morning, but his attitude about going to school has changed," said Jonathan's mother Paula Ortiz.

The service center will also hosts its first back-to-school extravaganza from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday as classes resume and the center's battle against the truancy epidemic picks back up with full-force.

The center will offer free school supplies, food, door prizes and educational games during the event. Staff will also be on-site to talk about the resources they offer. You can register for the event on the center's website and even register to win a free backpack while you're there.


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