The Church of Christ of Ruleville, Mississippi, Inc. is located in the heart of Ruleville in Sunflower County. This county is hit with some of the highest rates of need in the Delta. Thirty-six percent of the persons who reside in the Delta live in poverty, and the average household income of African-American in the Delta is 38.2% of the average white household. Statistics show the unemployment rate is 15.1%, 11.4% of the population receive public assistance and 30.5% of the births are to single teenagers under the age of 20. In addition, the juvenile incarceration rate for youth 10 to 18 is 10.3%. During the 2001 school year 100% of the students in the junior high and high schools were eligible for free lunch, almost 7% of high school students dropped out and almost 2% of junior high students dropped out.
These facts speak for themselves; living in the Delta is a challenge for many. Because of this, many residents in Ruleville suffer from low self-esteem. The Church of Christ saw this problem and developed its mentoring program in 2000. Since its inception, the program has targeted youth between the ages of 8 and 18 and engages them in positive experiences in an attempt to better the community by producing citizens who make positive life choices.
This year the mentoring program has been even more active, and they have geared many of the activities towards the community at large. During February, they hosted a Black History Program. They performed, “ Who Am I In Black History?” and enabled each mentee to research a person of choice and introduce a fact to the audience. They also elected a council in February and worked to ensure the mentees were educated on different aspects of the election process like nominations, debates and speeches. The volunteers provided interactive learning in hopes the youth would grasp the concepts better if they were able to participate.
Through a grant from the Points of Light Foundation, the volunteers donated a city flag to Ruleville. The mentoring group and other members of the community worked to design a city flag, and they presented the flag to the Mayor, Shirley Edwards, in a special ceremony.
The mentoring program also sponsors educational endeavors. Through a grant provided by the Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi, the program teaches against tobacco use and encourages healthy living. They also sponsor an after-school program during the school year and assigns youth-to-youth study buddies. During the past two years, the average student improved his or her grade by one letter due the dedication of the mentoring team.
The Church of Christ Mentoring Program has helped to change the lives of many youth in Ruleville. In addition, they teach conflict resolution, team building and critical thinking skills. They are helping to build a strong community by strengthening the future of their community, the youth.