Community building focus of meeting

Published 5:41 pm Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A meeting Tuesday at Union Baptist Church focused on community building and ways to reach out to children.

Chilton County High School Principal Greg DeJarnett spoke in response to the death of Dajia Lee, a 12-year-old Clanton Middle School student who died of suicide last month.

“If that doesn’t move a person I don’t know what will. It was just heart wrenching for everyone. It just brought tears to my eyes,” DeJarnett said. “What can we learn from this? What can we gather so this doesn’t happen again?”

DeJarnett, also a Clanton city councilman, said it was important to invest in children and be a positive influence on them. He encouraged the young people in attendance to stay active in school and take advantage of different programs available like sports, after-school activities and career/technical training.

“We want to encourage them to get involved. I want to see you succeed, do well and make something of yourself,” he said.

DeJarnett also encouraged parents to take time to be involved in children’s lives. He said Clanton is still a small enough area that changes can be made for the better.

“It’s not so massive a problem we can’t address it. It comes down to focus, vision and a concerted effort … to make it a priority. And certainly our children are a priority.”

The program also addressed bullying in schools and how it’s an ever-present problem, particularly online.

“With MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and cell phones, it makes it easy to sit behind a computer and harass someone,” said Clanton Police Chief Brian Stilwell.

While some categories of violent crimes, like burglaries and robberies, have dropped this past year, the department is seeing more and more assaults and harassment cases.

DeJarnett told young people in attendance to not let bullies get them down or stop them from pursuing their goals.

“It’s a very short period of time if you are being bothered,” DeJarnett said. “You can accomplish your task, just keep at it.”

Stilwell also talked about crime across the city and in the West End community. Earlier next week, Clanton PD will add two probation officers to keep tabs on the city’s probationers.

“We are going to start really watching (them),” Stilwell said.

DeJarnett told the small crowd in attendance Tuesday to not be discouraged by the small turnout.

“One can reach 100, or one can reach 1,000. We’re not going to let the devil distract us from the good we are doing,” DeJarnett said.

Jessie Binion said the West End Neighborhood Watch would continue to have similar community meetings, in addition to their monthly one.

“This is my home, and I want to keep it that way,” Binion said.

The West End Neighborhood Watch meets on the first Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. at Union Baptist Church’s fellowship hall.