Local groups and volunteers are working together to mentor young people, Lake Charles Mayor Nic Hunter said Saturday, and he encouraged others to join the effort.

Hunter, speaking to agency representatives and others, said the city paired volunteers and groups to devise ways to guide youths and keep them away from crime. The city’s juvenile crime rate rose by roughly 25 percent within the last year, he said.

“We don’t want that to become a trend in Lake Charles,” Hunter said. “We want our young people to realize that they’re not only here today, but they are our tomorrow.”

He talked about several programs, including Kids Cafe, which provides food for children at after-school programs and recreation centers. Hunter said the city has seen a 700 percent increase in the number of children who visit after-school programs.

He said Government U, which teaches students about local government, is in five schools — J.J. Johnson Elementary, T.S. Cooley Elementary, Molo Middle School, John F. Kennedy Elementary and Oak Park Elementary.

And, he said, Teen Connections teaches teenagers life skills like preparing for job interviews and applying for scholarships, along with how to use social media responsibly.

Additionally, Hunter said, the city will bring back Midnight Basketball in partnership with Ward 3 Recreation, Lake Charles police and Calcasieu sheriff’s deputies, and firefighters and police officers will continue to welcome students back to school.

After meeting with the mayor Saturday, agency representatives, educators, officers and residents discussed ways to influence the city’s youths. Kimberly Delafosse, assistant city administrator, said the goal was to identify realistic ways to help young people over the short and long terms.

“The issues our young people are facing will take time to resolve,” Delafosse said. “But we have to start somewhere.”

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