We have wonderful, supportive neighborhoods in District 6 and I am very proud of the S.T.A.R.S. program that I helped create with the Shepherd Community Action Council. The program happened as a result of complaints that the young people of Shepherd were out of control. There were fights in the streets and instances of disrespect to adults. Gang signs were appearing in the community and there was talk of gang recruitment taking place.
It was suggested that we needed to organize for dealing with the problems. During a Community Action Council meeting, six neighbors volunteered to serve on a committee, led by President Malcolm Walker, to design a program that would be filled with enrichment experiences and all the while, self-respect, good citizenship and goal setting for a healthy life would be emphasized.
We named the program S.T.A.R.S. (Shepherd Training Academics, Respect and Service) Twenty-five middle and high school students, boys and girls, were identified to be involved in the pilot program. Some of them were ideal students and some presented serious challenges. We wrote letters to parents of the identified youth inviting them to a meeting. The first program featured the police officer on the force who is most knowledgeable about gangs and gang activity in Chattanooga and in Shepherd. From that meeting, additional programs were developed that included dealing with bullying, cooking, a field trip to Wilson Air Center, where students learned about flying, a trip on the Chattanooga Ducks along with other programs that were designed to teach self-esteem, empower the students to be accountable for their behavior and enhance pride in their community.