A partnership between the University of Georgia and Athens-Clarke County is helping young criminal offenders turn something negative into a positive.
Twenty-eight young people from Athens-Clarke County recently graduated from YouthServe, a diversion program offered through the J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, Athens-Clarke County Municipal Court, and ACC Probation Services.
The program allowed participants aged 17 to 24 who are on probation for misdemeanor criminal offenses to engage in community service projects and leadership development activities designed to steer them in the right direction. The community service projects enabled the group to apply principles from the leadership curriculum in a real-world setting.
"The goal of the program is to provide the participants with an opportunity to reflect on their actions and think about how they can be better leaders to avoid making poor decisions again," said Emily Boness, a public service associate with the Fanning Institute.
In the classroom, participants learned about leadership styles, principles of leadership, conflict, values, decision making, goal setting and individual and group communication.
In essays about the program, participants indicated the experience was positive. In one essay, a participant said YouthServe would make them "a better person and a better leader."
"I have learned so many things and taken so many things from this class," another participant wrote. "If you were questioning whether or not to continue doing this, I believe that it is very beneficial to the kids who are on probation."