With graduation approaching, Youth Challenge Program (YCP) Cadets are completing community service hours by planting daffodil bulbs along La. Hwy. 2 in Sarepta.
"Cadets are finishing up community service hours in preparation for graduation this Saturday," said Shawn Hatcher, activities director for YCP. "All cadets must complete 40 hours of community service and give back to the community while they are here."
The Louisiana National Guard YCP is a program that offers at-risk youth opportunity to change their future in many ways, including the opportunity to earn a high school equivalency diploma.
"One of the projects we took on with this group was with the Department of Transportation, Sarepta and Webster Parish Tourism, in planting daffodil bulbs on Hwy. 2, " Hatcher said. "We started on the parish line and worked our way back to Sarepta. Around 3,000 bulbs were planted, and I think this will go on again next year at the appropriate time to plant them."
Ron Watts, area engineer for DOTD in Webster and Claiborne parishes, said the bulbs were available through a grant.
"America Responds with Love is an organization that aims to beautify public places," Watts said. "This organization gets leftover bulbs from wholesalers and gives them to people who won't profit financially from them – assuring they will only be used for public beautification."
Watts said many area organizations received bulbs secured by the Department of Transportation.
"Our coordinator, Ray Lemoine, makes arrangements to go get the bulbs in Meridian, Mississippi, and he brings them back to Alexandria for distribution around the state," Watts said. "Hwy. 2 was one of the projects chosen because Lynn Dorsey (Tourism) put in a request and she had the cooperation of the Youth Challenge Program, ensuring the bulbs would be planted."
Sarepta City Councilwoman, Peggy Adkins, had many positive things to say about the daffodil project and YCP.
"There were about 25 guys out there earlier this week planting," she said. "They all had shovels and were working diligently. They even picked up some trash out there."
Adkins is looking forward to seeing the daffodils bloom.
"They may come up this year. If not, we will hopefully see the cadet's hard work pay off next year," she said. "We are hoping as soon as travelers cross the bridge coming into Webster Parish that there will be a big bunch of daffodils in the flat area. Seeing the field covered in daffodils will be a wonderful way to enter the parish and Sarepta on Hwy. 2."
Adkins also mentioned this was not the first project to which YCP has contributed in Sarepta.
"These kids have helped us before, most recently at our Christmas Festival and Shawn Hatcher and the cadets are always so eager to help and do such a great job," Adkins said. "We are always glad to be able to work with their community service projects, and I will be calling on them again."
Adkins is more than a recipient of the cadet's community service hours. She is also a supporter of the program.
"Those kids are not bad kids," she said. "This program helps them obtain their GED and supplies them with other character tools for a successful future. It is a great program."
In previous Press-Herald interviews, Hatcher has explained YCP is an at-risk youth program with a screening process to limit who can enter the program.
"It is an at-risk youth program whether they have dropped out of high school or are struggling in high school," Hatcher said. "They have to be drug free, with no felony convictions, and it is at will – have to want to come."
During the five-month residential phase of the program, cadets are taught eight core components designed to educate and produce youth that will become productive members of the community.
The eight core components are: life coping skills, academic excellence, job skills, responsible citizenship, leadership/followership, health and hygiene, physical fitness and service to the community.
The second phase is a 12-month post-residential phase that consists of case managers and community mentors assisting cadets to put into action goals they have realized in the residential phase.
During the post-residential phase cadets are monitored as they return to their communities to continue their education or begin employment.
This class of YCP Cadets will graduate on the Saturday, January 26 at 11 a.m. at the Municipal Auditorium in Shreveport. Along with family and friends of cadets, the public is also invited to attend.