By Roger McKinney
A new child-friendly waiting room in the Joplin courthouse is the result of a class project by five Missouri Southern State University students.
The students — Shavonne McCoy, Lisa Miller, Casey VanStory, Mercedes Childs and Jessica Davis — are in professor Ree Wells-Lewis’ social problems class. They identified children who are victims of child abuse as their focus. The women involved in the project call themselves Empowering Young Voices.
“I create the space for it and they do it all,” Wells-Lewis said.
She said it was rewarding both for the students and for herself.
“What I get out of it is watching them grow through the process and the experiences they take with them,” she said. “There’s an element of self-empowerment.”
The walls are painted in bright, cheerful colors. Letters in frames on the walls spell out the words “heal” and “hope.”
McCoy, of Joplin, is a senior sociology major at MSSU. She said it has been an emotional project.
“It’s amazing to think how many kids and family it will help,” McCoy said. She said a group called Art Feeds helped with the design and other aspects of the room. Children’s books were also donated.
She said each of the students put in between 60 and 80 hours on the project.
Jasper County Prosecutor Dean Dankelson said the waiting room was nothing more than part of a government office before now.
“As you can tell by looking at our office, it’s not designed to be child-friendly,” he said.
He said trials can last two to three days, and when a child is involved, the child will be in the waiting room most of the time. The new children’s waiting room will give them a more pleasant and soothing place to wait.
The room is called the Dick Godsey Children’s Waiting Room, named for the victim advocate in the prosecutor’s office who retired in August after 25 years.