IEA program encourages local youths to make right decisions

Cody Guedry and Kasey Nonette of BPD

Beaumont Police Chief James Singletary and Beaumont Police Department SWAT officers Cody Guedry and Kasey Nonette spoke to local youths Wednesday, July 9, about setting goals for their future and how to achieve them at McCabe Roberts Avenue United Methodist Church in Beaumont.

The IEA – Inspire, Encourage, Achieve initiative Camp Bright Star works with at-risk youth, focusing on promoting healthy lifestyle choices, including tobacco prevention, civic engagement and service through participation in community gardens, art therapy, counseling, physical fitness, technology, nutrition, cooking, job training, field trips and other pro-social activities. The Southeast Texas nonprofit helps them identify their strengths and achieve dignity and respect through knowledge, compassion, understanding and love, an IEA press release states.

Camp Bright Star, the program’s annual six-week summer learning program, is in its 14th year and empowers youth to manage or eliminate thoughts that facilitate unhealthy behaviors while engaging them in structured activities that focus on literacy, improving language arts skills, generating excitement about learning and motivating participants to read, as well as developing character qualities.

Chief Singletary read encouraging words to attendees from the book “Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story,” the autobiography of the columnist and retired neurosurgeon. Carson is credited with being the first surgeon to successfully separate conjoined twins joined at the head. Carson was raised in inner-city Detroit by a mother with a third-grade education, lacked motivation, had terrible grades, and possessed a pathological temper that could have easily put him in jail.

His mother, however, convinced her son he could make something of his life, even though everything around him said otherwise. Trust in God, a relentless belief in his own capabilities, and sheer determination catapulted Carson from failing grades to the top of his class and beyond: a Yale scholarship, the University of Michigan Medical School, and finally, at age 33, to the directorship of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.

“Every one of you has a talent,” Singletary read. “Learn to recognize your God-given talent. We all have them. Develop those talents in a career you choose.”

Drawing from his many years of experience on the police force, Singletary related to the children the harsh reality of a life influenced only by money and greed.

“You may have seen drug dealers in your neighborhood,” Singletary said. “They are riding in these fancy cars and wearing these fancy clothes. Y’all see that and that looks nice and looks fun. You don’t see the part when we take them to jail. That’s not fun. When we bust in their houses and arrest them for dealing drugs. That’s not fun.”

When Singletary asked what the children wanted to be when they grew up, most answered UFC fighters, boxers, professional athletes, soldiers or construction workers. Two girls answered that they wanted to be police officers. While Singletary was pleased with the answer, he also related a warning of the dangers that come with the career choice.

“It’s tough to be a police officer these days, guys,” he said. “People shoot at you. These guys (Guedry and Nonette) have been shot at, and I’ve been shot at as well.”

Guedry and Nonette shared their personal stories and talked about the importance of setting goals.

They had each youth write down what they wanted to be when they grew up and helped them formulate goals to set them on the right path to success.

Singletary pointed out the importance of making the right decisions and keeping a clean criminal record in addition to setting goals for the future.

“Every day you’ve got to make the right decision. Every decision you make right now will follow you the rest of your life,” Singletary said. “If you break in somebody’s house or go steal somebody’s stuff, that decision is going to follow you for the rest of your life. If you have a bad record, you’re not going to be able to do what you want to do. Everything you want to do in life, it doesn’t come easy.”

The youth also participated in songs and dancing that one IEA worker called Harambee, led by IEA mentor Angel Rodriguez. Harambee, a Kenyan tradition of community self-help, literally means “all pull together” in Swahili, and is also the official motto of Kenya, appearing on its coat of arms. It offers enlightening and thought-provoking experiences designed to strengthen social connections and social responsibility. The dancing and music brought smiles to many of the children’s faces.

“A lot of these kids may go home to parents who use drugs or are abusive. This may be the only positive interaction they get this summer,” Singletary said.

This summer, IEA’s caring and dedicated team of professionals is creating an enriching, memorable and enjoyable summer that facilitates productive paths toward bright futures for approximately 35 Southeast Texas youth with a history of discouraging life experiences.

During the school year, hundreds of Southeast Texas youth who are struggling socially, emotionally and academically are referred to IEA by the Jefferson County Juvenile Probation Department, as well as by school districts, courts and other organizations that recognize when young people are at risk of engaging in inappropriate activities. As an intervention option designed to counter the disadvantages of poverty, abuse, neglect, distress, academic deficiencies, fragmented support systems and risky behaviors, IEA helps youth who are at risk strengthen and develop character qualities that increase their confidence in making healthy lifestyle choices.

Participants are equipped with life lessons learned from personal development sessions facilitated by IEA team members and local community leaders, including Beaumont Police Chief Singletary, Beaumont police officers, former Congressman Nick Lampson, J. Coffy Pieternelle, M.D., Southeast Texas Regional Planning Commission Executive Director Shaun Davis, Tolbert Chisum, Johnny Beatty, Judge Terrence Holmes, Pat Avery, Dr. David Willard, Linda Domino, Shelly Vitanza, Mary Young, Dora Nisby, and Ava Graves, along with a host of other individuals and professionals, who offer inspiring messages and favorite “read aloud” passages of books.

Entergy is a founding sponsor of the program along with other major supporters, including Valero, the Wilton & Effie Mae Hebert Foundation, BASF TOTAL Petrochemicals, the Gladys D. Bevil Charitable Trust, H-E-B, the YMBL, City of Beaumont, City of Port Arthur, Capital One, Flint Hills Resources, Mildred Yount Manion Foundation, CommunityBank of Texas, Church of Philadelphia of Beaumont, Texas, Delta Sigma Theta, Best Buy Children’s Foundation, Wal-Mart, Junior League of Beaumont, Linda and Joe Domino, Suzanne and Don Maloney, Dora Nisby, Willie Mae Shaw, Alicia Bonura Memorial Fund, BBVA Compass and Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church and McCabe Roberts Avenue United Methodist Church.

The mission of IEA-Inspire, Encourage, Achieve is to initiate and support educational programming and rehabilitative services for at-risk youth in Southeast Texas by inspiring and encouraging them to achieve, an IEA press release states. Services are offered at the Minnie Rogers Juvenile Justice Center and in the community through the organization’s outreach programs, including Ben’s Kids and Parent Project.

IEA also offers a boxing club for participates through the Beaumont Boxing Club.

For more information, call (409) 839-8778 or visit