Bay Co. School Officials Call for Student Mentors

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PANAMA CITY-- Bay County School officials are calling on community leaders to support and encourage kids to make the right choices. The plea comes in response to a string of murders over the last three months. School officials are relying on a number of people, including local pastors, to spread the message.

During a meeting Thursday morning, Superintendent Bill Husfelt said, "The pastors are going to be talking in front of thousands of people for the next two Sundays and they are going to have the attention for 30 minutes to an hour. My goal is for them to get people's attention, we need them to volunteer in schools and be there to be mentors."

Since the beginning of summer, there's been six murders in Panama City. Family of God Baptist Church Pastor Kenric Conway said, "If we move now before it becomes an epidemic, I think we will see it [crime] decrease."

Husfelt's worried about violence on the street leaking into the classrooms. To combat it, he's looking for serious volunteers from all backgrounds to mentor the kids on campus.

"We want our children to be the very best that they possibly can be. We want them to maximize their full potential and in order to do that I think we have to work together," Love Center Missionary Baptist Church Rev. Rufus L. Wood said.

According to a Bay County jail report, 70 percent of the male inmates did not have contact with their father at a younger age. Husfelt explained, "There's a direct correlation between not having a father in the home and the percentage or likelihood that a child is going to end up in jail. That's why finding mentors is so important for children."

During the first few weeks of school, more than 100 volunteers will be on Panama City school campuses offering support to students impacted by the recent violence. "This is an opportunity to whatever you can do commit to doing that and be consistent with it. That makes a difference in the lives of our kids," Free Spirit Church Youth Pastor Darrell Kelly said.

The District plans to screen every mentor before allowing them on campus. If you'd like to get involved, visit your local school for more information.