Project Safe and

Rockingham County Summer Youth

Mentorship Key Officials Rockingham County State Probation Chief Daniel Attaway Mayodan Police Chief Charles Caruso Citizen / Advisor Amelia Dallas Summer Youth Instructor Megan Dehe Treatment Provider Nora Gann Reidsville Police Chief Robert Hassell First Sgt. of the North Carolina Highway Patrol Richard Hester Project Safe Coordinator David Lawson Stoneville Police Chief Frank Moore Treatment Provider Tara Muchini Rockingham County District Attorney Jason Ramey Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page Recently Retired Madison Police Chief Mike Rutherford Eden Police Chief Clint Simpson

Rockingham County law enforcement agencies, the local parole board, and a dedicated group of community public servants, have come together to create a pair of programs to help teens and adults steer clear of a life of crime.

The most recent project is a summer school mentorship program for at-risk teens that is molded after Project Safe, created more than a decade ago to assist adults with a criminal history who are in jeopardy of becoming repeat offenders.

Just six weeks into the inaugural summer school initiative for high school students, leaders are already seeing progress in regard to the reform.

Project Safe officials reached out to high school counselors at McMichael, Morehead, Reidsville and Rockingham to identify kids who have poor grades or have exhibited troublesome behavior. The teens were then paired with a mentor and a teacher to help them bring their grades up and move on to the next level.

“What we were mainly looking for was for students that were at-risk, or kids that we thought could potentially end up in the criminal justice system,’’ said Rockingham County Probation Office Chief Daniel Attaway.

“And we asked Dr. (Cindy) Corcoran and community counselors to give us a list that we could start to work with over the summer. The main goal was to identify the kids, that because of their grades, weren’t eligible for sports and all of the structure that it provides,’’ Attaway said.

The team works specifically with six rising tenth and eleventh graders, to try and keep them on a positive path, and several have already been promoted to the next grade.

“We want to keep the numbers small so we can spend as much time as possible with each student,” Attaway said.

Retired Rockingham County Parole Officer David Lawson is the project manager and handles one-on-one mentoring, while Megan Dehe, a teacher with the Score Center in Reidsville, works with students seeking to make up academic credits.

“Each student needed something different. We had students that needed math credits. We had some that needed science credits — and one that needed a history credit, and Megan is a very well-rounded teacher that assists with everything. She’s primarily a math teacher, but she is a great fit for each of the students to help with whatever their needs are,” Attaway said.

Background on Project Safe

The Rockingham County Project Safe Call-In program takes place twice a year, in the spring and fall, and offers counseling and public assistance to rehabilitate and provide structure for at-risk adults.

Attaway, who has been at the helm of the Call-In project for the last six years, says results have been very encouraging, noting that approximately 300 people have come through the program since its inception with about 90% maintaining a non-repeat offender record.

“One of the main things we do with Project Safe is that we identify the most violent offenders in the community, the people with the most dangerous adult convictions. We look at the big four — felony, assault, robbery with dangerous weapons and homicides,’’ Attaway said.

“It’s a focused deterrent type of thing. We bring them all in — the sheriff, the police chiefs, the D.A., the federal D.A., FBI, SBI the ALE, the highway patrol — it’s an all-hands-on-deck program.

And we bring the previous offenders into a room and tell them: if you want to continue to go down that path, then we will gladly assist with putting you in prison for as long as we possibly can,’’ Attaway said. “But, if you want to make a positive change today, then we are going to put you at the front of the line for all of the resources that our county has to offer. Whether it’s employment, housing, child care, education — whatever we can do as law enforcement and our community partners that are with us. We will do anything we can to make you a productive member of our society,” Attaway said.

A resource fair takes place two days after the program introduction so program participants can link up with agencies for assistance.

Attaway, who has been with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety as a probation officer in both Guilford and Rockingham Counties since 2004, was promoted to local unit probation officer in 2014. He was assigned to the Project Safe board that same year and voted chair of Project Safe Rockingham County in 2019.

Contact Jim Sands at 336-314-1058 or on Twitter @jimsandsRCN.

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