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Charlotte Amalie
Friday, March 31, 2023


Sen. Judy Gomez, who chairs the new 23rd Legislature's Youth and Human Services Committee, presented plans for a youth summit this week, saying she wanted "all entities responsible for youth issues" to be represented.
That would include the Education, Human Services, Health, and Housing, Parks and Recreation departments.
The date of the summit will not be set until the new heads of the departments are named, Gomez said.
"We want to avoid working with the interim people on this summit, so we're going to wait until we know who the permanent cabinet members will be," she said, adding that she thought that would happen very soon.
Gomez said she was interested in working with other agencies as well, including the National Guard and Public Safety, to address youth violence in the territory. She said she hoped those two agencies would help establish a "boot camp" in the Virgin Islands.
Asked where funding for such a project might come from, she said that the Law Enforcement Planning Commission had some grants available for programs and that National Guard involvement would be helpful too.
A boot camp, she said, should address the educational and psychological needs of young people — "not just disciplinary needs."
"A lot of the people who end up in the criminal justice system may not have a high school education," Gomez said, predicting that a boot camp experience with training programs would go a long way in turning out productive citizens.
Another goal of the youth summit, according to the senator, would be to identify all the agencies in the territory that deal with youth and decide which were effective and which needed to be improved or abolished.
Still another aim, she said, was to make sure that programs already in place are reaching and fulfilling the needs of the targeted population.
While the government has been unable to obtain some of the money that is available to fund youth programs, Gomez said, that money might be accessed by working through private agencies.
Gomez said the territory needs more and earlier education programs for young children, "even earlier than 3 years old."
"I was an elementary school teacher, and I can tell you we could identify the problem children even in kindergarten," she said.
She believes education programs should start almost at infancy.
Finally, she said, parenting skills must be addressed.
"Anyone can have a baby, but not everyone has parenting skills," Gomez said. "That's why we have to start educating the whole person."

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