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County grant helps school districts implement youth development and violence prevention program

ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. - Positive changes are being made to the lives of many middle school students in St. Louis County, thanks to a big grant. FOX 2 first reported about the effort known as Reconciliation and Empowerment to Support Tolerance and Race Equity (Project RESTORE) months ago.

The county's Department of Public Health was awarded a 4-year, $1.7 million grant to implement the program to evaluate youth violence prevention efforts within the Normandy, Hazelwood, and University City school districts.

Normandy Middle School teacher Passion Bragg works directly with children who maybe dealing with behavioral issues due to some difficult life challenges both in and outside of school.

“Unfortunately, we are seeing an increase of children that have been exposed to trauma,” said Bragg. “And when that happens, kids and adolescents aren’t able to deal with those things.”

Part of the program, for example, includes some after-school tutoring programs as well.

“We hope that it helps to decrease the dropout rate,” said Damon Major, the coordinator with Project RESTORE. “And if kids are in school, it’s keeping them from getting into trouble and keeping them away from violent crimes.”

Many of Normandy Middle school’s former students come back to help mentor kids who are in seventh and eighth grades.

“They teach life skills,” Bragg said. “Another lesson they teach is about dating, smoking, alcohol abuse.”

The program it seems is already showing success within the University City School District.

“Our middle school students just took part in simulations around bullying to really understand what it is and how it impacts them and how it impacts others,” said Superintendent Sharifa Hardin-Bartley.

This summer, Normandy Middle School will work with some county police officers to offer sporting activities that will go along with their summer school program.