(NNPA) - Mychal Bell, the central figure in the case of the "Jena Six," is nearly a month away from graduating from Monroe Carroll High School, in Monroe, La., and will be attending a four-year university in the fall.
But as he prepares to realize a dream, his family continues to suffer.
"I am excited about the opportunity to play football and get an education. I am still looking at other options but my dream is coming true," he said to The Final Call.
Bell and the other members of the "Jena Six" faced attempted murder charges in the 2006 beating of Justin Barker at Jena High School in north central Louisiana's LaSalle Parish. The charges against the defendants were eventually reduced, after massive protests and media attention. More than 50,000 people converged on the tiny town of Jena in September 2007 for a major civil rights march and rally.
"Since that time, my life hasn't been easy," said Bell in a recent blog on GlobalGrind.com. "A lot of people talk bad about me and the media has portrayed me as someone who I am not. I know the truth about who I am and I know I am not a bad person."
After being sentenced to 18 months following his guilty plea on juvenile charges, Bell moved from Jena to Monroe, La., where he was in foster care at a coach's home. He was released from state supervision on Dec. 4. A football star at Jena High until the beating incident, Bell had hoped to play for Monroe Carroll but the Louisiana High School Athletic Association wouldn't grant him a fifth year of eligibility to play.
"He had kept his grades up and he had worked out the whole year even though he couldn't play. He had dealt with the fact that the state athletic association would not let him play high school ball," said Attorney Louis Scott to The Final Call. "But this young man has not given up and I think he will continue to turn out fine. But the struggle is not totally over."
Mother arrested on child support charges?
"People really don't know how hard it has been for us over this last year financially and mentally," said Mellissa Bell in an interview just days before knowing she would be arrested for failure to pay child support.
On April 5, Bell was arrested on a warrant for contempt of court/failure to pay child support. In November 2008, she was found in be contempt of court in the amount of $930 and was ordered to spend 30 days in jail. The sentence was reversed on condition that she paid $155.00 per month on the balance due and $45.00 per month on overdue fees.
According to the LaSalle Parish Sheriff's Department, Ms. Bell has not made any payments, which resulted in her apprehension by law enforcement. Ms. Bell and Mychal's father Marcus Jones were ordered to pay child support to the state for their son, until he turned 18, as part of the plea deal made by his legal team.
"What does child support have to do within a criminal case? I am not on trial as a result of non-payment of child support," said Jones in a statement last year. Mychal Bell is now 19-years-old.
The two parents were also ordered to pay all court costs associated with Bell's case along with a portion of Barker's medical bills. In addition, they are facing a lawsuit by the Barker family.
"There were so many people who promised this family assistance but didn't come through," said Atty. Scott to The Final Call. "Some people show up for a few minutes of fame and that's it. But situations like this need long term support systems. Because we're fighting against a system that will crush the hopes and dreams of young people before they get started. Their fight isn't over when the rallies end."
"I am in need of some serious help," said Ms. Bell to The Final Call as she cried. "So many promises were made but we have been left alone to fight and struggle. It's so depressing all the time. My lights have been off and my gas at the same time. But I do thank those that have continued to show support for us."
The other five Black males that make up the Jena Six have yet to go to trial.