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‘Village Builder’ LaSara Mitchell starts as Boro’s youth program coordinator
Courtesy of City of Statesboro After being introduced as the Village Builders Youth Program coordinator, Lasara Mitchell, front row second from left, is surrounded by, left to right, front row: Statesboro City Council members Venus Mack, Shari Barr and Pa
After being introduced as the Village Builders Youth Program coordinator, LaSara Mitchell, front row second from left, is surrounded by, left to right, front row: Statesboro City Council members Venus Mack, Shari Barr and Paulette Chavers; back row: Mayor Jonathan McCollar and City Council members John Riggs and Phil Boyum during the Dec. 6 council meeting. (Courtesy of City of Statesboro)

Dr. LaSara Mitchell, previously employed by Georgia Southern University Health Services and active in a number of community programs for youth, has begun work for the city of Statesboro as its first Village Builders Youth Program coordinator.

Mitchell arrived on the job Nov. 28 and was introduced to the public during the Tuesday, Dec. 6, City Council meeting. She worked at Georgia Southern for 16 years as an administrative specialist in the agency that provides healthcare services to students.

“I’ve also mentored and worked with youth in the community for probably about 20 to 25 years, as a youth director, working with youth, building programs for the youth in the community through other agencies,” Mitchell said in an interview Tuesday.

She has served as a mentor with National Guard Youth Challenge and worked with the City of David Worship Assembly’s youth programs. Mitchell also personally started Young Scholars, a local summer program she described as “bridging the gap academically and behaviorally” for at-risk youth before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Youth advocacy is mainly my passion and what I’ve been doing the past few years, even while working at Georgia Southern,” she said.

Mitchell’s doctoral degree is a Doctor of Executive Leadership from the University of Charleston in West Virginia. She attained her Master of Arts in forensic psychology and her Bachelor of Science in criminal justice both from Argosy University, previously in Atlanta. Mitchell grew up in Bulloch County and graduated from Southeast Bulloch High School.

 

Youth initiatives

Village Builders is the latest of several youth-related initiatives established by Statesboro’s city government during the tenure of Mayor Jonathan McCollar, who was re-elected in fall 2021 and is now completing his fifth year in office. Volunteers who had been involved in his first successful campaign started the Statesboro Youth Commission soon after he was elected in fall 2017. City Council adopted it as an official city advisory commission in late 2018 and granted it fund-raising authorization in 2019.

In summer 2021, the city government, assisted by a few other local nonprofit agency employers, created and hosted Youth Connect, a stipend-paid employability and soft skills learning and job experience program for high school students. Last summer, 21 teenagers completed the five-week program as the second annual Youth Connect cohort.

McCollar in his 2022 State of the City Speech in February called for further investment in youth, including the creation of “Children Zones” to provide support services in neighborhoods with the highest number of at-risk children and teenagers.

He also said the time had come “to develop a comprehensive youth mentorship initiative” providing guidance to middle and high school students and exposing them to career possibilities.

 

Village Builders

The city’s fiscal year 2023 budget, approved by City Council last spring and in effect since July 1, included $120,000 to launch the Statesboro Village Builders Initiative. In August the council, by a 3-2 vote, authorized the Village Builders program coordinator position at a pay grade that provides a $46,920 minimum and $58,651 midpoint annual salary.

As program coordinator, Mitchell is expected to administer efforts “utilizing mentorship, workforce development and support services strategies to address the needs of youth in at-risk situations,” according to the job description. A few of her prescribed “essential job functions” are supervising and evaluating mentors, facilitating training for mentors and volunteers, and evaluating the effectiveness of programs.

The city’s plan for the Village Builders Initiative targeted five “villages,” not all of Statesboro but five residential areas identified as having the largest population of at-risk children, to be the initial focus. These can be seen on a map at www.statesboroga.gov/villagebuilders.

Before Mitchell arrived on the job, Youth Commission volunteers and some city employees conducted “mobile resource day” events, bringing food, clothing and literacy materials into locations in each of the “villages” over the course of six Saturdays in October and November.

In addition to launching the mentoring program and working with projects such as mobile resource days through the year, Mitchell expects to work with Youth Connect in the summer.

Her office is at City Hall, where Human Resources Director Demetrius Bynes, who directed Youth Connect in its first two years, is her immediate supervisor.

She was not working with youth yet this week but had started planning for the programs.

“I’m already doing the research and the digging, so hopefully we will see those initiatives move forward in the near future,” Mitchell said. “I know by January we’re going to get some things off the ground and running.”

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