News and Tribune

January 8, 2014

THEIR OPINION — For Jan. 8


Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers. Distributed by The Associated Press

Mentors can help scholars succeed

The 21st Century Scholars program aims to help low-income, at-risk children get a college education so they can break the cycle of poverty. That’s easier said than done.

The Indiana Commission for Higher Education said only about 1 in 10 of the 21st Century Scholars participants graduate on time, and only 3 in 10 earn a degree at all.

The program provides money for college, but there are other stresses. Those students need someone to guide them during these unfamiliar experiences.

A student who is the first member of the family to go to college doesn’t have the support of parental wisdom based on prior experience at school.

Nor does the student necessarily understand what is required and expected of college students.

“These students often need help understanding the level of work that’s needed in a post-secondary environment, the deadlines and the exams and the forms and what office to go to at what time related to registration and paying your bills,” said Indiana Youth President and CEO Bill Stanczykiewicz in a video about the Indiana College Success Mentoring program.

Stanczykiewicz said the institute expects mentors to help students with things like study skills, time management, adjusting to life on campus, financial literacy and accessing campus resources.

College is hard work. It’s not just an extension of high school. Students need to learn study skills. Students often are living on their own for the first time, too, and that requires self-discipline and other traits they might not have developed during high school.

So the mentoring program begins working with students while they’re high school juniors to prepare them for this transition.

Many NIPSCO employees serve as mentors, said Eddie Melton, manager of corporate citizenship and employee involvement.

“We pair the students up with a NIPSCO employee, someone who can motivate them to do well in school and participate in extracurricular activities,” Melton said. “The Urban League also has been active and helped the students with financial aid and transportation issues.”

If you’re able, and appropriately suited to the job, consider becoming a mentor for youths.

— The Times, Munster

Stiffer penalties for abhorrent crimes

The term “home invasion” is especially distasteful because of the heinous crimes it can entail.

One’s home is supposed to be safe, secure and protective — a refuge from the often mean world around us.

A home invasion changes that balance, corrupts that safety zone, violates that privacy, destroys that trust.

Home invasion can — and often does — involve violence, sexual attack, robbery and intimidation. It can end in terrible injury, death, rape, inhumanity and other deviate conduct. Its victims are never the same again.

Such home invasions have happened sporadically in the Wabash Valley, and they have been occurring disturbingly frequently in our capital city and its suburbs. Most recently, a mother and her daughter were beaten to death in their home in Westfield, just north of Indianapolis near Carmel. Not long before that, another mother and her daughter were beaten, robbed and sexually assaulted in one of Indianapolis’ better neighborhoods.

In both cases, men suspected of having committed those egregious crimes have been apprehended and charged. The popular sentiment is that, if found guilty, those men should be severely punished for the pain, suffering and inhumane indignity they perpetrated on their victims.

Among the hundreds of proposed laws that will be introduced in the 2014 Indiana General Assembly ... is a bill that would significantly increase the penalty when firearms are used to commit violent crimes.

The premise is that when criminals resort to firearms in committing any crime, they deserve more punishment.

The proponent is State Sen. Jim Merritt, a Republican from Indianapolis with more than 20 years in the state Senate, who is reflecting his constituents’ fears about home invasions — fears, he has said, that lead some to answer a knock at the door with a locked-and-loaded firearm, as is a homeowner’s right.

Under current law, Indiana courts can add five years to a sentence for someone who used a firearm while committing a crime.

That’s too little and too indefinite for Merritt. He will be pushing a bill that, if passed, would extend that additional sentence from five years to a 20-year minimum.

He also wants to change can to must — to make the additional 20 years mandatory.

That would, of course, extend well beyond home invasions to other instances of violent crime such as murder, robbery, abduction and injury.

But the recent home invasion offenses so well illustrate the need. They so offend all decent people’s sensitivities that the point is made clear that our courts need a stronger penalty, which we can only hope would be a stronger deterrent to indecent people who would so devalue human life that they would commit such crimes.

We hope Merritt’s bill gets approval from both houses of the legislature and an enthusiastic signature from Gov. Mike Pence so that its provisions can begin to give more muscle to laws against acts we all abhor.

— Tribune-Star, Terre Haute