Honor students from the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg will partner with several victims’ advocacy agencies beginning Aug. 19, including two organizations from Sedalia.
The agencies, Mothers Against Methamphetamine (MAMa), U-R-Awe-So-Me, both of Sedalia, Taking it to the Streets, and Healing Pathway Victim Service Agency, both of Kansas City, and the Crime Victims Unit of the Missouri Sheriff’s Association, of Jefferson City, met at the offices of MAMa with Dr. Ashley Wellman the assistant professor of criminal justice at UCM Monday morning
Wellman will be working with 16 honor students from various majors this semester, and due to the class being an exclusive group she is able to offer a different perspective and a unique spin on their learning experiences.
“My motivation was, I specialize in violent crime and victimization,” she noted. “So, I thought why not expose our students to some organizations who are helping families and individuals in need in our community, and make them have a hand in changing the society we live in.”
Her goal was to have five organizations for the students to work with, so she began to look at potential agencies that needed assistance.
“The neat thing about the honors college is that it’s students from every discipline,” Wellman said. “Business, nursing, criminal justice, and multimedia, so I thought what a cool way to take these students and put them with these organizations.”
Each student brings different “talents” to the table and can offer assistance in various ways.
“Over the course of the semester each organization will have a couple goals that they need help with,” Wellman said. “My students, my goal for them is to fulfill those needs.”
MAMa Executive Director Claudia Kays said the Sedalia group, located at 515 S. Kentucky Ave., is the only existing chapter, except for the National MAMa organization.
“There are no other chapters anywhere,” she said.
She hopes to continue to build up the MAMa support group with the help of two other members, but she added that the UCM program is helping her to form a sub-group. After watching barriers with her own son’s methamphetamine addiction she wanted to pull down obstacles in Pettis County.
“What can we do to help the people of Pettis County?” she noted. “… Getting (addicts) into treatment, and offering services down here such as classes.”
The support group will be run under MAMa and a new sub-group, Heartland Recovery Resource Center, will be formed to assist recovering addicts. Johnnie Williams, who also works with MAMa, and his program U-R-Awe-So-Me, will also be under the new center’s auspices. He will receive help forming his victim prevention presentations and help from students with a website to promote his speaking engagements.
“He also teaches anger management class here,” Kays added.
The UCM program will also help MAMa and with fundraisers.
“We going to be helping MAMa shift into that Heartland Resource Center, getting new literature material and helping to kind of re-brand them,” Wellman said. “We’re going to help Johnnie put together some media packets to develop and brand himself.”
Wellman added that Williams’s story and presentations are “powerful.”
Williams spent 19 years in a Missouri prison for two counts of first degree robbery and a felonious escape; he was released earlier this year and has begun presenting victim prevention and motivational talks.
“I created this vision on the inside,” he said. “I did most of my time in Jefferson City …
“I work along with Mothers Against Methamphetamine,” he added. “I have a couple purposes here, I do interventions with recovering drug addicts or those who are interested in recovery. I also teach an anger management class every Monday night from 6 to 7:30.”
Williams also speaks at the Victim Impact Panel (VIP) in Sedalia and will soon be facilitating a criminality/substance abuse class for MAMa.
Scott Lamaster with Taking it to the Streets said their organization is a nonprofit group that does community outreach, serves the homeless and provides aide to first responders.
“We bring food, hydration and snacks,” he added. “We do disaster relief and we also have an international team that serves in Central America.”
“We’re going to help Scott brand his new emergency response idea,” Wellman added.
Wellman said Healing Pathway, represented by Monica Roberts, specializes in helping children whose parent/parents have been murdered. The students will help with event planning and a resource budget for the agency.
“One of the things that our class is going to help them focus on, is their annual Christmas party,” she added. “So her big need is assistance with resources for the children … and she also needs help running the Christmas party.”
The Crime Victims Unit of the Missouri Sheriff’s Association will also receive assistance from the students.
“This project is really going to help all the nonprofits involved and the Crime Victims Unit for the Missouri Sheriff’s Association is seeking some energy and focus from the younger generation,” Kim Case, advocate and case manager for the Crime Victims Unit, said. “To help us know how to reach out to those in the community and also those victims through social media. One of our big needs is a fundraising plan, because we do serve the entire state. It hard to know how to best focus and organize something that would include everyone and not exclude everyone as well.”
She added that the unit needs reserve funds to help victims with issues such as safety and security plans and other simple items such as lunch for a victim’s family.
Wellman explained that each agency the students will be working with has victims due to a trickle down effect. Many people, due to circumstances, may become homeless, then become target for violent crimes or may turn to drug use.
“What people don’t understand is there’s such a complex component going on,” she added. “People who are victimized by things like domestic violence and child abuse, a lot of them will end up being homeless … to escape that lifestyle … so these are victims or at a high risk of being victimized.”
In December, at the end of the program, Wellman said she will have a Capstone Reveal at UCM where students, as well as the agencies, can come together and speak about the impact of the project. Students will also illustrate and review the work they have completed.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 826-1000 ext. 1481 or @flbemiss.