Hometown Highlight: Panhandle Promise Project

The Panhandle Promise Project in Amarillo is working to combat an issue that has long plagued the United States. Their goal is simple: to break the cycle of incarceration. Studies show children’s exposure to this situation, especially if prolonged, can lead to antisocial behavior, increased risk of drug & alcohol abuse, failure to remain in school & maintain employment, poverty and increased engagement in criminal activity.

The program currently serves approximately 30 children in the Amarillo area. Through mentorship, team building exercises, educational camps and other fun outings, the children of incarcerated parent(s) learn positive social interaction and self-expression in a community of compassion. Not only are the children nurtured and empowered, the organization aims to provide them years of consistency and support.

Each year-long program is provided completely free of charge and allows for bonding between the children in the program, the children and mentors, and between the caregiver and child. Mentors are paired with the children following a weeklong summer camp, and take on a leadership role to include movie outings, homework assistance and other opportunities. To be eligible, a child must have a family member who is either currently or recently incarcerated, be at least six years old and younger than 19, live in the Amarillo/Canyon area and have at least one adult that can support the child through the application process.

As the number of children enrolled in the Panhandle Promise Project grows, the organization continues to rely on supporters (both volunteers and monetary) to make a bigger impact in the community. In 2014, it was officially awarded the status of a 501(c)(3) charity. Not only has the number of children affected by incarceration increased, so has the number of single parents and caregivers. In 2015, Promise Project scheduled their first adult retreat to give adults an opportunity to learn parenting strategies as well take a break from the stress of their daily lives.

Almost a half-million children in Texas have experienced separation from a parent who is incarcerated, and Amarillo is not exempt. If you are interested in volunteering or providing financial assistance, please visit the Panhandle Promise Project website. For more information, call Melisa Martinez at 806.316.6005.