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A good investment

It’s one of those rare success stories n a minor government grant helping steer young lives in the right direction.

Suffolk received less than $20,000 in Juvenile Accountability Block Grant funds over the past six years, but the money was put to good use.

The fruits of the small investment in at-risk youth were on display Monday when the butterfly sculpture was dedicated downtown. While the sculpture is beautiful addition to the downtown landscape, the real payoff from the investment is more intangible.

The grant monies were overseen by the Suffolk Juvenile Crime Enforcement Coalition (JCEC), the governing body that determined how JABG funds would be expended. The group, which consisted of representatives of the police and sheriff’s departments, the commonwealth’s attorney’s office, court services unit, juvenile court, schools, community corrections department and the department of social services n met quarterly since 1998 to discuss the progress of juveniles participating in the programs or receiving services secured using the JABG funds.

From 1998 to 2004, the program served more than 75 at-risk juveniles. Program funds were spent to send young people through anger management training and to provide intensive supervision for at-risk kids whose behavior warranted additional structure.

Also part of the program was a summer welding course at Pruden Center for Industry and Technology conducted my Thomas Shirk.

It was Shirk who designed the butterfly sculpture unveiled Wednesday, which was created by five juveniles in his program.

After completing the eight-week program, many of the graduates either interviewed for positions with the Naval Shipyard or Northrop Grumman Shipyard. Others sought to advance their skills by returning to the Pruden Center and enrolling in a traditional welding program.

Twenty thousand dollars doesn’t seem like a lot to spend if it turned even one of these 75 lives around or put it on the right path. Effective government programs don’t have to have million dollar price tags. A little can go a long way if those administering are sincere in their commitment to touch lives. The JABG program appears to have been such a case.

Suffolk now has a beautiful piece of art on display and, more importantly, young people who are trying to master a skill and become productive members of our community.