Tonya-Rivens-2015 (2)

Recently, I was honored to receive the Charlotte Mecklenburg Chief’s Award for Excellence in Policing for my work with the Teen Engagement and Mentorship program (TEAM).  I am fortunate to work as an associate chaplain with the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office.  As a result of my role there, I connected with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, former gang members, The Relatives program and Nations Ford Community Church to implement a non-traditional way of working with our youth in the community.

Representatives from these organizations dress casually and meet weekly at the CATS Transit Center in uptown Charlotte, where we talk with area teens. The results have been amazing.

At least 50 young people respond and seek assistance each week.  You may find it surprising that many react favorably in spite of the fact that they may have been arrested by CMPD and detained in county jail, which is run by the sheriff’s office.

Many of our youth are looking to talk and to get information about jobs; others are interested in earning a GED. Members of both law enforcement agencies have taken on the role of building relationships with our 16- and 17-year-old youth while they are incarcerated at Jail North. Once a young person is released, the communication continues.

CMPD and the sheriff’s office share information about each individual’s neighborhood and commit to checking on them once per week. TEAM also travels weekly to Stonewall Jackson Youth Development Center to mentor to youth and discuss life and life choices.

CMPD and the sheriff’s office have several programs to work with juveniles, including a juvenile diversion program, a reality program and more. TEAM is the perfect example of various agencies creating a partnership to show genuine concern for our community.

If your agency or ministry is interested in becoming involved, email:

Tonya Rivens writes a faith column for Her career in gospel radio in the Charlotte market include stints as music director, program director, community affairs director and on-air host...