‘Change agents’ look for opportunities to rise above the stereotypes

Thirty “change agents” with the Impact Agency, an initiative of the Calcasieu Parish District Attorney’s Office, recently met with Gov. John Bel Edwards at the state Capitol.

Agency Director Braylon Harris said he was invited to lead the invocation for a recent state Senate session and wanted the group to accompany him.

Curriculum Coordinator Ronald Blanchard said meeting the governor wasn’t originally on the group’s agenda. But, Blanchard said, when state lawmakers took notice of the 30 young men in navy suits and bow ties, they coordinated an effort to get them face to face with Edwards.

Harris said the group spent so much time with Edwards that Harris had to excuse himself from the conversation to be on time for his invocation.

Derrick Williams said that speaking with Edwards fulfilled a personal goal to make connections with people who have a significant effect on the world.

“The governor is a really understanding and fundamental guy,” he said. “He’s a regular person, just with higher authorities.”

Darren Metoyer said his main intent for the trip was to “see how the Senate and the House work together” to accomplish their tasks. He got more than he bargained for when Edwards gave him personal advice for political success.

“He didn’t have a ton of money, and he didn’t come from the traditional background for governor,” Metoyer said.

“But he kept working hard and made it to the governor’s mansion.”

Dillon Zachery said the trip showed him how associating with the right people can open doors.

He said it was a “great opportunity” to rise above the stereotypes that come with being a young black man.

Blanchard said Zachery’s observations address the heart of the Impact Agency. Like much of the United States, Calcasieu Parish has a high incarceration rate for black men. Blanchard said the situation amounts to a “vicious cycle that’s not working.”

“It’s just getting more and more kids locked up,” he said.

The Impact Agency, formed to counteract the cycle, offers mentorship, tutoring and networking opportunities for young men in grades 6-9 who have been identified as leaders — either positively or negatively. The goal is to ensure they break the cycle of incarceration.

“They’re going to make an impact, so why not a positive impact?” Harris said.

The agency also visited Southern University and met with administrators, judges and student leaders.

””

In this file photo from 2018, Impact Agency members meet Gov. John Bel Edwards during a visit to a state Senate session.

Special to the American Press

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