Alpha Phi Sigma is the national honors society for Criminal Justice, and the University of Mississippi chapter is overseen by Linda Keena, associate professor and graduate program coordinator in the legal studies department.
On March 31, 2016 at the annual Alpha Phi Sigma Conference in Denver, Colorado, the University of Mississippi chapter, Mu Rho, presented a video of its annual service project in the national Outstanding Chapter Service Award competition. Lamar Yeates and Zachary Buckner, graduate students in the Master of Criminal Justice program, made the formal presentation. The University of Mississippi chapter was awarded first place in the highly competitive event. They received a $200 cash award and bragging rights.
When Mu Rho members were trying to decide on a Community Service project for the 2015-16 academic year, they used a Utilization Focused Evaluation process to determine the needs of the local juvenile rehabilitation program, the Exchange Club Family Center. Dr. Keena and the students asked the Director, Mr. Johnson, what could be done for the Center. Director Johnson stated that the Center, which operates on community donations, needed some therapeutic recreation programming. Yet, they did not have a location to even exercise outside.
Mu Rho set out to solicit donations to create a basketball court on an adjacent parking lot. First, the lot had to be cleared of debris including rash, abandoned vehicles, and weeds. Then, the students received donations of a commercial basketball goal and professional basketballs. Mu Rho purchased paint and stencils to form the court and to restore the Center’s sign. In addition, Alpha Phi Sigma members recruited students from other University departments and the men’s basketball program and football program to help with developing programs.
While the sign has been refurbished and the basketball cour completed, the efforts of Mu Rho continues with weekly therapeutic programming. The youth have been assigned mentors, resulting in healthy relationships between the youth and university students. The legal studies department is extremely proud of the community service project, which has heightened the community’s awareness of the Center’s needs.
Furthermore, it provided a first-hand experience of how juvenile offenders think, feel, and behave. Most community service projects are perfunctory and provide little understanding of what goes on inside a juvenile center and how it affects behavior. By enabling the students to participate in this service project, the opportunities to learn and understand grew exponentially.
A short video of the students working on the basketball court can be found below: