For a little more than six years, Ron Anderson has been helping young people find themselves and their place in the world around them.
Anderson’s Project Reclaim and the Youth Leadership Institute program provides for youth at J.A. Phillips Middle School, Webster Junior High and Minden High School help develop and fine tune leadership and social skills through training and family support.
“Project Reclaim is not new to Minden,” Anderson said. “It was in place beginning in 2008 and continues even though we lost our state funding from the Office of Youth Development in 2012.”
Most programs funded by the state have standards which must be met in order to continue receiving money. Anderson said his funding was discontinued for reasons which didn’t really make sense.
“We lost funding not because we weren’t performing, they just reallocated the funds. Our program is prevention based; to keep them from being involved in the criminal justice system,” he said. “They said they wanted to use the money on youth that were already adjudicated, in the system.”
Apparently, Anderson said, someone thought prevention was no big thing. If prevention and success in dealing with youth was a criterion for continued funding, he said, the proof could be found in the numbers. Outcomes of Project Reclaim efforts during the years 2008 through 2012 include:
92 percent of participants promoted to the next grade level.
100 percent of participants remained in school.
100 percent of youth involved remained free from juvenile court involvement.
100 percent of those participating remained free from involvement in teen pregnancy.
Kids in the program weren’t tossed aside simply because the state decided to cut funding, Anderson said.
“I decided to continue as a volunteer. I wasn’t going to turn my back on these kids so we simply scaled back on what I do,” he said. “We started the leadership institute and we meet once a month at the FAME Community Center. That will increase as we are able to do so.”
Anderson’s leadership program focuses on leadership skill training and, soon, participants will begin media training to help with writing and public presentation skills. Also, career readiness is planned to help get youngsters interested in college and workplace readiness.
“We’re also getting family involved through parenting training,” Anderson said. “You’re just spitting in the wind if you don’t touch the household. You can’t work with a kid, then turn around and send them back into the same troubling environment.”
Currently, Anderson has 46 youngsters meeting in his leadership institute. He is looking at a target number of 50.
“We want to provide quality service. We don’t want to say we’ve got big numbers and find we’re not really touching all of them,” he said.
With state funding out of the picture, Anderson said he formed his own non-profit corporation in hopes of raising funds. He already receives occasional assistance from contacts in Shreveport, but he’s hoping Minden people will be willing to help Minden kids with donations.
Anderson’s interest in Minden isn’t unusual considering it’s his hometown. He graduated from Minden High School in 1975, then attended Southern University-Shreveport for a time before transferring to Louisiana Tech. His first job after receiving his bachelor’s degree was at the police jury’s Head Start program on Gleason Street.
After a stint as director of staff training at Evergreen Ministries, he became an instructor at Southern U. in Shreveport. He decided to strike out on his own after 15 years as the director of the Lighthouse Project in Shreveport.
“I went into business for myself and started Ron Anderson, LLC. It was a rocky road at first, but now I do a lot of work in Plaquemines Parish, with the LSU Department of Social Work and I operate some youth programs
through Shreveport city court with first and second offense misdemeanor offenders,” he said.
Anderson has had 1,113 graduates from his court program since 2012, “…and 76 percent of them did not come back to court. It is an optimal potential life skill training and we work with all the court judges.”
Although Anderson’s not drawing a salary from his Project Reclaim in Minden, that doesn’t mean he’s not getting paid.
“My pay is to go to Minden High School and have the assistant principal say a young lady asked if he had applications for our program. My pay is when a young lady breaks down in tears during a presentation and says she did so because somebody cares,” he said.
“The payday is when you touch someone in a positive manner. That’s why we want to put the effort where it needs to be. I want to be where the rubber meets the road,” Anderson added.