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Juvenile Services of Wyandotte County will receive a $60,000 grant from the state of Kansas to launch a pilot program to help improve the lives of at-risk youth, according to a news release from the Unified Government.

The program, 180 Degrees, will begin on Tuesday, Jan. 20, the day following the birthday of the late Martin Luther King Jr.

The grant is being awarded in partnership with the Kansas City, Kan., Public Schools and Heartland 108, which is a new nonprofit organization. Heartland’s goal is, “to passionately help youth improve their lives by accepting personal accountability and to continuously striving toward the goal of achieving their full potential, ‘one degree’ at a time.”

This highly interactive and participatory after-school pilot program will use a comprehensive research-based curriculum provided by the national 180 Degrees Program (www.180-degrees.com). Based in Salem, Oregon, the organization has a number of sites mostly in the Pacific Northwest. The program has also been established and growing in a number of other locations in the Southeast and internationally.

The program will require the youth to meet for three hours a day, four days of the week and will serve up to 50 Wyandotte County youth between the ages of 11 and 17, currently enrolled in a Kansas City, Kan., Public Schools educational program.

The after-school program will serve youth who are either facing sentencing for a new offense or a sanction for violating conditions of their supervision, or have multiple unexcused absences.

“The strength of this program is that it has a built-in evaluation mechanism that documents performance measures related to GPAs, class attendance and referrals. This not only helps to hold the youth accountable to their goals for success, but it also reveals the value of the program to the community at large,” said Pastor Jonas Hayes, Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church of Overland Park.

Hayes knows first-hand about the success of faith-based community and juvenile programs like 180 Degrees. He started a similar pilot program in Greenville, Miss. His solid track record of improving successful life, pro-social and education skills led to the programs growth, which resulted in serving more than 200 youth annually. The program also eventually expanded to serving youth in surrounding states like Arkansas and Louisiana.

“The community I served in Mississippi identified a challenge with area youth and truancy. In the first year, we saw over a 50 percent increase in class attendance, which led a stronger performance in school,” Hayes said.

The pastor’s efforts were documented and honored in film titled, “Delta 180: Changing Lives in the Mississippi Delta.” The film captures the success of the 180 Degrees Program In the 2011-2012 school year and powerfully tells the story of the youth who made positive strides in changing their behavior and the impact this had on the whole community.

“I can only imagine the impact that this will have on our community now that it has been brought here,” said Max Mendoza, a governor appointee to the State Advisory Board on juvenile justice and local youth advocate.

“This has been an area of need in our county for a long time,” he said. “We are so excited to see the community coming together and we know there are many others in the community who can help teach this curriculum and also to offer their gifts to facilitate an activity to reinforce the lesson taught that day.”

All 180 Degrees Program Facilitators are required to complete 24-hours of training, provided by the national 180 Degrees Program staff. The 180 Degrees Program training will take place daily, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Jan. 5 through Jan. 8. The training will be held at the Kansas City, Kan., Public Schools Administration Building, 2010 N. 59th St., Kansas City, Kan.

“To help our community’s youth to succeed will take our very best effort. Sometimes our efforts in the community can be compartmentalized. Perhaps it’s because we get busy and try and keep up with multiple commitments,” said Phillip Lockman, director of the Department of Community Corrections in the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and KCK. “The vision here is to bring together the key sectors of the community – the schools, government agencies, businesses and faith-based community to come together and help our youth live to their fullest possible potential.”

For more information or to request an application to serve as a Heartland 180 Degrees Program facilitator, send an email to heartland180@gmail.com or call 816-359-7363.
- Story from Unified Government

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Two Kansas City, Kan., men face federal drug charges, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Ramiro Madrigal, 19, Kansas City, Kan., and Armando Rodriguez, Jr., 19, Kansas City, Kan., are charged with one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, one count of possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine, and one count each of traveling from Nevada to Kansas in furtherance of drug trafficking. The crimes are alleged to have occurred Oct. 15 in Thomas County, Kan.

If convicted, they face a penalty of not less than 10 years and a fine up to $4 million on each of the first two counts and a maximum penalty of five years and a fine up to $250,000 on the third count. The Kansas Highway Patrol investigated. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mona Furst is prosecuting.

The historical Thanksgiving Breakfast Dance will be held at 10 a.m. Nov. 27 at the Kansas National Guard Armory, 18th and Ridge, Kansas City, Kan.

The Thanksgiving Breakfast Dance is a live blues event to celebrate family and friends gathering for food, music, and dance.

The dance will feature blues artists Latimore singing “Let’s Straighten It Out,” “Bad Risk” and “Sunshine Lady.”

There also will be performances by Lady Vivian and Rockin’ Rick.

The Thanksgiving Breakfast Dance is a historical event that was started by blues promoter Willie Cyrus in 1959. Through the years the dance has featured such stars as Little Milton, Johnnie Taylor, Bobby Blue Bland, Tyron Davis, Sir Charles, Denise LaSalle, Floyd Taylor, ZZ Hill and Willie Clayton.

A gala affair, this annual event regularly has up to 1,000 guests in attendance.

The doors will open at 8:30 a.m. The event continues through 2 p.m.

Tickets are $38, and reserved tickets are $50. Tickets at the door are $45. A reserved table of 10 is $450.

For information or tickets, call 816-353-4373 or visit ticketkc.com.

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