Career educator and civic leader Roxson Welch has dedicated most of her life to trying to make Baton Rouge a better place.
The 57-year-old mother of three taught in the East Baton Rouge Parish public school system for 17 years, helped start the Louisiana Resource Center for Educators, and worked as Mayor-President Kip Holden’s educational outreach coordinator.
She also served as an East Baton Rouge Parish metro councilwoman for several years and ran for mayor in 2000.
Welch will continue to serve area residents as the director of the new Family and Youth Service Center, which is set to open its doors this fall and was created to help boost public school attendance and reduce juvenile crime in East Baton Rouge Parish.
“Roxson is an excellent choice for this position,” said East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore. “She’s been involved with the center since its inception and will have a short learning curve.”
Kelly Bonaventure, president of the board that oversees the new center and a pre-trial services/juvenile service coordinator with the District Attorney’s Office, said Welch was selected from a pool of 166 applicants.
A committee of board members and funding partners whittled the pool down to 16 candidates, Bonaventure said.
The board interviewed six of those candidates and chose two finalists, one of whom was Welch. After interviewing the finalists, Bonaventure said, 13 members of the 16-member board voted 8-5 to hire Welch.
“Roxson has been with us from the beginning and will be able to hit the floor running,” Bonaventure. “She knows the community, the concept and the mission of this center.”
Jennie Ponder, director of the East Baton Rouge Parish Truancy Assessment and Service Center, said she is overjoyed with the board’s selection and described Welch as hard-working, enthusiastic and creative.
“She has been a workhorse through this whole process,” Ponder said. “Her connections to the community will definitely benefit this center.”
Ponder’s agency will be one of many agencies housed at the center, which will initially focus on families in the 70805 ZIP code where the city sees its highest rate of truancy and juvenile crime.
Other tenants include the Mayor’s Office of Juvenile Services, the District Attorney’s juvenile and truancy coordinator, the East Baton Rouge Parish School-Drug Task Force, the School System’s Children and Welfare and Attendance Unit, a state Department of Children & Family Services office and the Capital Area Health Services District.
Initial funding for the center will come from the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board, the city-parish, the Sheriff’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office, which have each committed $100,000 in annual operating funds for the next three years, the city-parish news release says.
The Wilson Foundation also has committed to a one-time grant of $100,000 that will go toward setting up a computer system at the facility, the news release says.
Additional funds for the center’s future use and money to do some minor renovations to the site at the former Louisiana School for the Visually Impaired on Government Street will have to be raised.
Welch said she is excited about the position and believes that the center can make a significant difference in the lives of East Baton Rouge Parish residents.
“I think right now in this community we have everything in place that can make a huge difference,” she said. “We’ve got all the people and all the players that have always needed to be at the table to be able to make a difference in these people’s lives.”