Fogle mentors youth behind the razor wire

By Wayne Bryan Originally Published October 13, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated October 11, 2013 at 4:26 p.m.
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PHOTO BY: Rusty Hubbard

Tyrone Fogle operates the Covenant Club program at the on-site branch of the Boys & Girls Club of Saline County at the Arkansas Juvenile Assessment and Treatment Center in Alexander.

Off Arkansas 5 in Bryant sits a series of buildings where children live and work. There are classrooms, a gym and ball fields. It could be mistaken as a nice small high school, were it not for the high fences topped with razor wire.

It is the Arkansas Juvenile Assessment and Treatment Center, where 100 young people ages 12 to 18 are held after committing what is termed “the more serious offenses” by the Division of Youth Services of the Arkansas Department of Human Services.

“All the kids [committed as juveniles] are referred to the center,” said Lamont Daniels, an assistant facility director for G4S Youth Services, a private company contracted to operate the state facility. “The center is kind of a last chance for some of the kids here.”

The center’s maximum-security dormitory “services some of the youth division’s most behaviorally-troubled and violent youth. However, to Tyrone Fogle of the Boys & Girls Club of Saline County, they are just kids.

“They’re tough kids,” he said, “but they are like average kids. They have just made some wrong decisions. For many of them, there have been bad things at home. We teach them about making the right decisions in our programs.”

Fogle is the unit manager of Covenant Connection Center, a Boys & Girls Club located on the grounds of the juvenile center.

“What we do is run a regular club, with our traditional programs for leadership, character and career development, along with programs for art, music, fitness and health,” Fogle said. “We take one group for one hour and provide recreation, both physical and social. The only difference is that taking part is mandatory for them.”

The physical recreation includes athletics, like dodgeball, basketball and football, in an intramural program.

“They do some great things with the kids, like basketball and football clinics,” said Richard Barnett, an assistant facility director for administration of the center. “Coach Fogle has also arranged for a scrimmage with the team at Harmony Grove in Haskell. We will be the home team.”

There are separate classes for the girls and the boys at the facility and the club,” Fogle said. “They are never together.”

He said one of the major classes for the young people at the center is about character.

“In this setting, that means getting away from criminal thinking,” Fogle said, — “that they are always the victim and it’s someone else’s fault. We teach that they are in charge of themselves and that the kids must learn to think before they act.”

Another program, Passport to Adulthood, is taken by girls and boys, and they graduate with a certificate.

“They learn leadership skills that are more positive than the leaders they might have had in the gangs,” Fogle said. “These kids will not be children forever, and they have to learn about being responsible for themselves and to the community.”

The coach said it is a satisfying moment when he sees that the classes have gotten through to some of the young people.

“We were playing dodgeball, and there was a verbal conflict on the court,” Fogle said. “Someone was hit, and it was questioned if he was out of bounds or not.

“I stepped in, and the kid told he, ‘I’m going through the steps, and I’m not going to argue. I’m going to take 10 seconds and then sit down.’ Once, he would have blown up, and there would have been a fight.”

Fogle said he likes the job he has been doing since 2000.

“I think God put me in this position,” he said. “It was frustrating at the beginning, but after 10 years, I’m over that.

“Now I see some of these kids as adults, and they still call me Coach and tell me they liked our programs at the club. They have jobs and kids of their own.”

Fogle was raised in Chidester near Camden. He played football in high school, earning a scholarship to Henderson State University, where he majored in sports management and recreation.

From an early age, he said, he knew he wanted to work with children. After graduation, he worked at one state facility before joining the Boys & Girls Club of Saline County for a job at Covenant Connections Club.

Last year, he received the Helping Hands Award from the club for his efforts and success in working with “the tough kids.”

“I was surprised, and it made me feel great to be recognized, not for what I do, but for the work that is done here,” Fogle said. “It’s important and needs to be known about in the community.”

Fogle said he was standing next to the wife of the club’s executive director, Jasen Kelly, as Kelly was telling the audience at the club’s fall banquet in 2012 about the award and its recipient.

“We were handing out drinks for the dinner, and I started listening,” he said. ”Then I got the thought, ‘That sounds like me.’”

Fogle said the club at the assessment center had endured cutbacks over the years. One program that helped the young people find jobs when they left the facility and that followed up with them had to close.

“We need funding, but more importantly, we need people who will come here as speakers and mentors,” Fogle said. “Our community here is separate and not involved in the wider community. We need people who will come and bring a positive message to the kids.”

Fogle’s work is certainly recognized by the operators of the facility.

“Coach Tyrone will do whatever you ask,” Daniels said. “The kids love Coach and the Boys & Girls Club.”

“Having a full club on campus is unusual,” Barnett said. ”Every year, we talk about budget cuts, but we always recommend that we keep the club open and their services going.”

Fogle reaches out to the toughest kids and in a place often unknown to the rest of the residents of Saline County, and he makes a difference.

Staff writer Wayne Bryan can be contacted at (501) 244-4460 or at wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

Tri-Lakes Edition Writer Wayne Bryan can be reached at 501-244-4460 or wbryan@arkansasonline.com.

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