New Idea: More Than Sports | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

New Idea: More Than Sports

When Jed Oppenheim of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Mississippi Youth Justice Project ended up as a "quasi-member" of Mayor Chokwe Lumumba's Parks and Rec transition team, he decided to offer a different direction to the conversation focusing on sports and facilities—which inevitably ended up "male and able bodied-centric."

"I decided to take it upon myself to make recommendations for non-athletic usage of the department facilities," he said last week. After talking to community people and getting young people to "workshop" how they use community centers (which are part of the city's Parks and Recreation Department), he compiled various recommendations for parks and rec facilities that ended up part of the overall parks transition report. The program ideas included:

• Mentoring programs for young people

• Maternal well-being

• Healthy relationship/young marriage mentoring

• Educational drop-in/re-engagement centers, including:

• Academic tutoring after school, on weekends and during summer

• Comprehensive sex education

• Job training and resume/interviewing tips

• Art, music and dance classes for all ages

• Financial literacy

• Business incubators

• Home ownership

• Learning rights from tenant's rights to disabilities to the workplace

• Healthy living, nutrition

• Civic leadership

• Green education, including eco-friendly homes and urban agriculture

• More soccer fields

• Language and citizenship classes

• Cultural awareness events (ethnic, religious, sexual orientation, etc.)

Oppenheim said he gave the most input on the educational drop-in/reengagement center, where he suggests that credit recovery and GED classes be included, as well as a place for young people suspended from school to go, rather than hanging out on the street and getting in more trouble.

He wrote: "These are community-based (sometimes school-based, but not always) programs that essentially take our most vulnerable youth who have already been pushed out and engage them holistically—not just in education (where they can get a high-school diploma, not just a GED like most non-school programs), but with mental health, job skills, etc. With a high dropout rate, a 'drop-in' center could do wonders to re-engage many young adults. Educationally, whatever curriculum would be used could be much more culturally sensitive and learner-centered (Paulo Friere), which could potentially engage young adults in a different way than school did. There is a lot that can be done in these centers."

FACTOID: Who was Paulo Friere?

Jed Oppenheim is a fan of the "learner-centered" curriculum advocated by Paulo Friere. His approach to teaching advocates a "problem-posing" approach in which learners actively participate in finding solutions to problems. His critical pedagogy approach typically occurs in small groups with lively discussion and interaction, as well as music and other creative expression.


WEIGH IN: Read “Recommendations for the City of Jackson Parks and Recreation Department at and post your thoughts underneath the PDF.

See also:

What Our City Needs

Vision 2022: A Regional Vision

Green Space

Big Ideas: Getting Jacksonians into City Parks

Revisited: Town Creek

Defined: People's Assemblies

Bright Idea: Conserve Energy, Create Jobs

Filling the Emptiness

Your JXN Idea

Best Practice: Mid-South Minority Business Council Continuum

What the Heck Is An IBA?

Radical Idea: Vacancy Tax

Build a Bicycle- and Pedestrian-Friendly Jackson

Everyone Needs a Roof

Jackson Planning Map

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