More efforts are being made to help challenged youth in Meridian. One such program is called NFusion X. Open since February in Meridian, it's part of a pilot initiative in Mississippi that links people ages 14 to 21 to resources in their area, that will help them become successful.
"We started this program not knowing where we wanted it to lead us and with 116 people walking through those doors needing help, I think it's phenomenal," says program coordinator, Ceatrice Kelly.
In all, the program has assisted 116 people in Meridian since it started. With 9 employees and others who volunteer as tutors, the program helps participants prepare for state testing, the GED, to find jobs and retain services or items needed such as getting a driver's license or birth certificate. Many of the youth it serves are either suspended, expelled or have dropped out of school.
"Most of them come and spend the entire day with us. So, they're not on the streets getting into trouble. They're here being productive citizens and that's our goal to help them become productive and law abiding citizens," says Kelly.
The program also provides free counseling and peer mentors to participants. Simone Henry is one of the program's success stories. After entering NFusion X in April, the 19-year-old now works as a peer mentor.
"To me, everybody goes through something in life. So, I think people shouldn't be judgmental on like younger kids,'"says Henry.
Both Henry and Kelly agree that the support the program provides for participants is a major factor in its success.
"It makes you feel special and loved. It makes you feel good!" says Henry.
"I think a large percentage of that is that they don't have a vision, but some of them come in and now see that they have goals that they can make and complete,"says Kelly.
Participants in the program are often referred by schools, churches or the juvenile justice system. They can also voluntarily get involved.
NFusion X also provides free transportation for young people in Meridian and offers monthly sessions for parents. So far, organizers say response for that has been good.
NFusion X is funded by a federal grant. Located in the College Park Shopping Center, it's open Monday through Friday from 8 AM until 7 PM. For more information on NFusion X call (601) 693-3806.