Local high school students participate in The Impact Agency's Great Debate at the historic Calcasieu Marine Bank in Lake Charles, La., Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. Calcasieu Parish police jurors recently approved a resolution allowing girls to take part in the program.

Calcasieu Parish police jurors on Thursday approved a resolution to partner with several agencies in allowing girls to take part in the Impact Agency's Positive Change Initiative Program.

The partnership for the expansion also includes the Calcasieu District Attorney's Office, Calcasieu Sheriff's Office, city of Lake Charles and the Lake Charles Charter Academy Foundation. The program, now in its third year, currently provides mentorship and counseling for 100 at-risk young men.

Braylon Harris, director of the Impact Agency, said having girls be part of the program has been discussed since it began.

"If you're going to impact the entire community, you've got to have all genders," he said.

Harris said women are "taking what is their rightful place alongside men" in holding high ranks and offices.

"So, we want to make sure the young ladies of Southwest Louisiana can follow suit and prepare to assume those positions as they become available," he said.

Edriena Alexander is the Impact Agency's assistant program director and director of the girls division. She said the goal is to help young women discover the leader within them, then develop and define it.

"Not everybody realizes they can lead," she said.

Alexander said counselors and teachers at Calcasieu Parish schools have identified students they consider leaders.

"(They) can have a voice and not be afraid to use it," she said.

Alexander said the program aims to teach young women to "value who they are."

"Social media has created such comparison and competition for women," she said. "That can be tough."

Roughly 20 to 30 girls will take part in the program during the first few months, Alexander said. Ultimately, the goal is to have up to 100 girls participating in the program.

"We'll have to go through a trial and error period," she said. "The gentlemen have given us a strong foundation. We're not going to reinvent the wheel."

District 13 Police Juror Joe Andrepont and District 2 Police Juror Mike Smith commended the program for helping youths succeed and for including girls.

"Oftentimes, the young ladies could be more at risk than some of our young men," Andrepont said.

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