Each year, Volunteers for Youth Justice (VYJ) selects a “hero” who has exhibited exceptional dedication to our mission and the children and families that we serve.
District Attorney James E. Stewart has been named “2018 Hero of the Year” in a surprise ceremony at the Caddo Parish Courthouse Friday, June 14, 2019.
D.A. Stewart has been awarded for his steadfast and unwavering commitment towards the well-being of the children in the community.
“He advocates strongly and understands the importance of providing resources and services to ensure and promote a healthy and thriving community for our children and families,” Kelli Todd, VYJ executive director.
His focus since the program began has been “keeping children in the classroom and out of the courtroom.”
In 2016, D.A. Stewart collaborated with VYJ in order to bring a new program (TASC) to the community that would primarily focus on reducing the rising truancy numbers of elementary aged children. This program has effectively been running for three years and D.A. Stewart has continued to assist VYJ in providing solutions to address issues such as lack of clothing, transportation, and medical care that cause many families to have truancy issues.
“Our mission is to provide a community caring for children, youth and families who are in crisis,” VYJ Executive Director Kelli Todd told a group of several score Stewart staffers, family members and friends. “Each year we name a hero or person that embraces our mission and walks right alongside us and helps us carry out the mission.”
She cited numerous policies and activities D.A. Stewart and his office have implemented since he was elected in late 2015, including anti-truancy programs, partnerships to provide uniforms and medical care for children in need, Christmas bike give-aways to children who normally wouldn’t receive any presents, and summer football and volleyball camps for parish youth.
She singled out the anti-truancy program for its impact.
“When he was first sworn in, we were sending a thousand kids a year, little kids, to court,” Todd said. “Now we’re sending less than 20.”
In sum, she said, “things like that made him an easy choice for this award.”
D.A. Stewart was visibly surprised by the gathering and the award. He directed the praise to the attorneys and staffers in his office.
“It’s not so much me but the people around me who come to me and ask ‘Can we do this” Can we do that? If you don’t help the community, you’re not doing anything. We’re going to do more than prosecute cases, we’re going to go back to the community and serve the people. There’s an old Greek saying that society is better when old men plant trees whose shade they will not sit under.”