Sunday, June 3, 2007
Mentoring programs for Missouri's youths are offered by a variety of organizations, some privately funded and others supported by tax dollars.
One statewide program that receives both state and federal funding is the Missouri Mentoring Partnership, which has several programs in Southeast Missouri as well as other locations across the state.
MMP helps teenagers who are struggling in high school, need guidance as the enter the job market and may be juvenile offenders.
In Perry County there is another approach to delivering these services to teens: Communities Helping Adolescents Mature Positively and Successfully, or CHAMPS. Since the late 1990s, CHAMPS has provided mentoring programs for high school dropouts and teen drug and alcohol abusers. It has been operating on donated funds and grants, but some of those funding sources are drying up.
To keep the program going, CHAMPS backers sought and received legislative approval this year for Perry County to vote on a quarter-cent sales tax for youth and senior-citizen programs.
This is an example of a local need being met with local dollars. CHAMPS might not be the answer for teen problems everywhere in the state. MMP, for example has had limited success even though all of Missouri's taxpayers pay for the localized programs that exist.
The sales-tax option for the Perry County CHAMPS program pinpoints the need and the will to do something about it and offers a funding mechanism that is subject to voter approval.
It makes sense to provide local options for meeting local needs. It will be interesting to see if voters in Perry County agree and whether this program can be an example for other counties in Missouri.