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Virginia Sheriffs' Institute
Supporting Virginia’s Sheriffs & Deputies
Justice Fauntleroy, 19; Myles Roundtree, 19; Zsa'qyan Knight, 23; Katherine Lasha, 19.
Justice Fauntleroy, 19; Myles Roundtree, 19; Zsa’qyan Knight, 23; Katherine Lasha, 19.

Sheriff Gabe Morgan and his deputies are STEP-ping up to work with the City of Newport News to help at-risk youth and young adults. This is the third year of the Youth and Gang Violence Prevention Initiative’s Summer Training and Enrichment Program (STEP). The youngsters work at area businesses for a 10-week summer work readiness program. They get paid, take field trips, attend workshops, receive financial literacy training and enroll in GED prep classes.

Sheriff Gabe Morgan made sure the Sheriff’s Office is participating again this summer.  Four STEP participants started at NNSO on June 7: Justice Fauntleroy, 19; Myles Roundtree, 19; Zsa’qyan Knight, 23; Katherine Lasha, 19. They were issued uniforms and got a tour of the facilities.

Two are working in Civil Enforcement and two are shadowing deputies in Court Security. They quickly started seeing there’s a lot to the job of deputy sheriff.

The youngsters have been busy with doing jobs like helping out at the Aviation Career Education academy, the two-week camp focused on jobs in aviation that NNSO helps sponsor.

Maia Bell knows all about STEP. She’s one of the program’s success stories, having started the program in June 2014.

“I was placed at the NNSO, where I was given the opportunity to show off my work ethics,” Maia says. “STEP helped me get my foot in the door.”

During STEP, she learned how to process papers in Civil Enforcement. Maia was hired in November 2014 and is currently training to be the CORIS technician in NNSO’s Records Department. CORIS is an Internet-based offender management system.

“Needless to say, if it wasn’t for STEP, I wouldn’t be working here now,” she acknowledges. “I’m just grateful for the opportunity given to me by Sheriff Morgan.”

City officials say the STEP program this year will serve about 600 young people, ages 16 to 24, who live in select areas of Newport News.  According to the program, each person works three or four days a weeks, takes part in one or two Enrichment Days a week and receives a weekly stipend.  Participants are paid $7.25 per hour; those with a high school diploma or GED get $8.00 an hour. To encourage businesses to take part, program costs are covered by the Youth and Gang Violence Prevention Initiative.

Last year, 64 Newport News-based businesses and organizations participated in the program at no cost to them. The program served 316 youth and young adults. When the program ended for the year, 21 participants were offered employment because of the skills they learned through STEP, officials noted.

The program is one piece of the city’s initiative to increase positive outcomes for youth and young adults to help stem the tide of gang involvement, drug use and gun violence.