published Thursday, November 29th, 2012

Law firm supports Chattanooga Gang Task Force literacy effort


Donations to the Chattanooga Gang Task Force can be made to the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga. Donations must be marked "Gang Task Force," and may be dropped off at the foundation office at 1270 Market St.

The Chattanooga Gang Task Force's literacy initiative is getting a boost.

Chattanooga law firm Miller and Martin on Wednesday gave the task force money to help provide learning software at a local recreation center. The donation is an investment in Chattanooga's future, according to Miller and Martin Chairman Jim Haley.

The software, the Lexia Literacy Program, is already in place at the Bethlehem Center in Alton Park, and the donation will allow it to be implemented in another location, most likely in East Chattanooga, said Boyd Patterson, gang task force coordinator.

Addressing community literacy is one step in easing the issues that lead many people to join gangs.

"Every survey I've seen has at least 70 percent of the prison population as illiterate," said Pete Cooper, president of the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga. "If you can solve that at the opportune age of third or fourth grade, it is infinitely easier [than] to remediate it."

Though the Gang Task Force hopes to target the literacy software to younger children, it can be used by anyone. It will measure the exact literacy level of the person using it and will tailor the program to him or her, Patterson said. If a client begins using the software and then slows progress, the software will alert the program's main station, which will in turn alert the local moderator.

Chattanooga City Councilwoman Pam Ladd said the $5,000 donation shows that many members of the community support the gang task force and its work.

"To have your validation that we believe in this program, and we validated this program, is priceless," she told members of Miller and Martin.

Patterson also addressed recent criticism of the attention received by gangs and the gang task force by the Chattanooga government and media.

"When it comes to gang violence, if you're not in a gang or related to a gang, you're pretty safe," he said. "That doesn't mean it's not your problem."

about Rachel Bunn...

Rachel Bunn is originally from Ellijay, Ga., and graduated from the University of Georgia with degrees in magazines and history. While at UGA, she wrote for the student magazine UGAzine, served as news editor for the student newspaper, The Red & Black, and spent a semester studying British history at Oxford University in Oxford, England. She has previously worked at The Rockdale Citizen in Conyers, Ga., and The Reporters Committee for the Freedom of the ...

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