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TJMS students make social issue presentations to PACC

Some Port Arthur students got an education outside of the classroom.

Eighth-grade students from Thomas Jefferson Middle School and seniors from Bob Hope School attended the regular meeting of the Port Arthur City Council on Tuesday morning at city hall. The seniors were in teacher Lance Warren’s U.S. Government class and observing the proceedings. The middle school students gave presentations on a variety of issues regarding awareness and communicating social issues in the community.

The first presentation dealt with parks restoration in the city via slideshow presentation.

The students said children can go to the parks with their parents. The parents could walk for exercise while the children played.

“Parents wouldn’t have to worry about kids being in gangs and doing drugs because they were able to enjoy their day at the park,” they said.

This could also lower teen obesity rates. The Golden Triangle has the second highest teen obesity rate in the state.

Port Arthur parks, however, have outdated slides and swing sets. Parks need to be cleaned and restored to a better condition.

“Only 24 of the 34 parks in Port Arthur are in good enough condition for kids to play in, but they still have graffiti,” they said. “The 10 other parks are in horrible condition and they need to be refurbished.”

“To solve most of these problems are to build more parks or have a group of people that are willing to help clean up the parks.”

The students’ research found grants and funding will help create more parks.

Suggestions were to start an organization that will clean up the parks and remove the graffiti. Also, there needs to be more money used to create better parks or reconstruct and/or revitalize the old ones.

Raymond Scott Jr., mayor pro tem, said all on the council are concerned about the parks in Port Arthur.

On the other hand, Rose Hill Park recently built a new playground and tennis courts.

Mayor Derrick Freeman said he would like to see a “really nice” waterpark in the city better than anything else in Southeast Texas and the city could use some of the students’ research.

The next presentation was on domestic violence awareness.

The students said their goal is to plan a walk for awareness in order to make the community more aware of this issue and to suggest ways victims can seek help.

Eighty-five percent of domestic violence victims are women.

They then showed a map of the U.S. where areas of domestic violence are more prevalent, such as in Texas.

They then gave some statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence:

  • There are more than 10 million abuse victims every year
  • One in three women and one in four men have been physically abused by an intimate partner
  • Domestic violence hotlines nationwide receive 20,800 calls per day
  • Domestic violence is most common among women between 18 and 24
  • Regardless of age, sexual orientation, gender, race, religion, or nationality, domestic violence affects all

The students said domestic violence is a problem that has grown in silence because not many people speak about it.

Many victims are left with trauma.

“Domestic violence happens to certain groups that have lower income and to married couples,” they said.

Some suggestions made in dealing with domestic violence was to create a walk in the community to raise awareness and get the community organized to know the signs.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and the students thought it would be a good time to speak on the topic.

Charlotte Moses, Position 7 councilwoman, said her mother is a survivor of domestic violence who suffered in silence. She told the students it was good they care enough to organize a walk.

The last topic covered was childhood obesity.

The students said their objective is to make Jefferson County a healthier place for future children.

“The kids are Jefferson County’s future adults, and by doing things to prevent childhood obesity, the healthy habits we teach can all together result in a healthier adult population in the future,” they said.

Their goal is to reduce childhood obesity rates in Jefferson County, introduce healthy habits to schools in Texas and making healthy choices an option.

“High childhood obesity rates are nothing new to the United States,” they said. “Every year, these rate are growing, and Texas suffers the same fate.”

“Nearly one in three children, ages 2 to 19, in the United States is either overweight or obese, putting them at risk for serious health problems, such as diabetes, asthma, and heart failure.”

Texas is one of the states with the highest childhood obesity rates in the United States.

Some ways offered to prevent childhood obesity is to establish an awareness and prevention group that could go from school to school on how children can have healthy habits.

Tiffany Hamilton, District 2 councilwoman, said she will work to implement a childhood obesity prevention program in schools. They can also get funding from the American Heart Association for the program in a grant application for healthier foods in the community.

Freeman said the city is available to get $100,000 from the U.S. Conference of Mayors to set up mobile markets in the “food desert” areas of the city, particularly on the west side where there are no grocery stores in addition to partnering from school to school.

David Ball: 409-721-2427