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Mentors try to turn city's bad reputation around

Sandra Smith-Jones sits on the opposite side of a classroom lesson.




The principal at Lighthouse Charter School in Pine Bluff is learning how to help her "scholars".

"We call our students scholars and we focus on going to college," she said.

So she's already one-step ahead of what her teacher, Reverend Jesse Turner,  is going over during  the "Pine Bluff Cares" mentor training that encourages educators to pose the simple question to students, pen or penitentiary?

A question that's meant to help them realize there is a choice.

However emphasizing education is really just the beginning of Saturday's lesson.

"In order to believe in them, influence them they must first trust you," said Smith-Jones.

This  idea of building trust is where the word 'monitorship' comes in and is the real lesson being taught to these three educators who will then pass it along to their co-workers.

"Mentor means to me," said Turner, "To be able to give a helping hand, listen to a child and be able to give encouragement."

That encouragement, he said, will will turn the problems in Pine Bluff around.

"It's a cheap way of getting our children on track," he said.

"As a mentor being a positive influence on their lives," said Smith-Jones.

And pulling them away from things like murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, or motor vehicle thefts, the six crimes that put their city on the map as the second most dangerous area nationwide.

"In Pine Bluff we are still looking for mentors," said Turner.

If you would like information on becoming a mentor: click here.
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