Columbus Urban League launches new program to prevent youth incarceration
Courtesy of NBC4
By Jonathan Jackson
March 30, 2022
COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — The Columbus Urban League is giving teens at risk of entering the juvenile justice system a chance to turn their lives around.
The new city-funded program would provide mentorship, community service, and family counseling, to keep students on the right path.
“A lot of these young people have never had a chance from the beginning, so how do we now give them that first chance opportunity,” Stephanie Hightower, president and CEO of the Columbus Urban League, said.
Hightower said the program would serve as a youth enrichment course., providing teens with mentorship and community service opportunities over an eight-week period.
In addition, Hightower said the program would require parent involvement and provide counseling and other services to involved families.
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“Instead of them going through the court system, or through the juvenile justice system, what we want to do is provide an enrichment opportunity for them and their parents,” Hightower said.
It’s these actions that local parents and teachers said are crucial in keeping youth off the streets.
“We do need someone to jump in and be leaders and mentors of these young women and men,” Kyra Pruit White, a local mother from Columbus, said.
“If we can get children on the right path at a younger age, then that youth program might not be so challenging,” Ellen Thompson, a teacher at Columbus City Schools, said.
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White is a local mother and supporter of the program, who said she’s seen far too many children in her own community fall victim to juvenile delinquency.
The same goes for Thompson, a teacher at Columbus City Schools, who said mentoring children early in the educational process can be life changing, especially when their parents are involved.
“If we can help parents start where they are and then move on to help them achieve whatever goals they want for their children and themselves, then that’s a win-win,” Thompson said.
The youth enrichment program plans on having around 60 teens and their families involved by this summer, with the potential for more as it progresses.
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