Religious leaders launch volunteer campaign
on November 2, 2009
Local religious leaders Rev. Andre Shumake and Pastor James Wheeler were fingerprinted at the Richmond Police Station last week, not because they had done anything wrong, but because they wanted to do something right.
Now they are asking that at least 98 more volunteers from faith-based organizations provide their fingerprints to the police as well in order to help at local schools.
Shumake, president of the Richmond Improvement Association, announced plans for the school volunteer campaign at a news conference organized by several religious leaders Monday, following the recent rape of a 15-year-old on campus during a homecoming dance that had no volunteer chaperones.
Four hours after Shumake made the appeal, 15 residents had committed to volunteering.
“We believe if we can have a presence here, it will have an effect on the school,” Shumake said standing in front of Richmond High School. “I figure you have got to lead by example.”
Because of a recent anonymous corporate sponsorship, the cost of fingerprinting and TB testing for on-site volunteers is being paid for, said Nia Rashidchi, assistant superintendent for West Contra Costa Unified School District. That cost is between $32 and $47 per volunteer.
“Sometimes in our community, that cost can be a block,” Rashidchi said.
In the last week more than 50 volunteers have come forward, she said.
Rashidchi also said the district is developing a program for all of its schools that will teach respect, civility and dignity. After it is approved by the academic subcommittee, she said she is hoping the program will be piloted in the spring and ready for full integration by next school year.
This is one of several measures being implemented to increase the safety of students throughout the district. Over the weekend, a number of lights at Richmond High were replaced including in the dimly-lit courtyard where the 15-year-old student was raped on Oct. 24. Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner has also requested that security camera system and fencing plans be expedited through the State Architect’s office. The initial approval process for the plans was completed Friday.
Pastor James Williams of Watson Temple A.O.H. said the adults in Richmond need to be examples to and supporters of local students.
“We want to show that while they’re in class doing what they need to do, we’re out here on the perimeter doing what we need to do.”
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