28 youth offenders graduated from the YouthServe program, a leadership program offered to misdemeanor offenders between the ages of 17-24.
The program, now in its second year of operation, is run in a collaboration between the University of Georgia’s J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, the Athens-Clarke County Municipal Court and ACC Probation Services. Youthserve participants are given an opportunity to turn a new leaf by attending leadership classes and community service opportunities run by the Fanning Institute to fulfill community service requirements handed down to them by the municipal court.
“If they successfully complete those 24 hours, municipal court and probation have agreed to give them credit for all the hours they were assigned,” Emily Boness said.
Boness works as a member of the public service faculty at the Fanning Institute, and led the YouthServe program these past few months. Running from March 2 to April 27th, the program consisted of five leadership classes and 11 community service projects, of which the students had to attend three. According to a UGA Today press release, students learned about about “leadership styles, principles of leadership, conflict, values, decision making, goal setting and individual and group communication,” skills Boness said she hopes will help students make better decisions in the future.
YouthServe collaborated with several area non-profits to provide service project opportunities. These organizations ranged widely in focus from The Cottage, a sexual assault and children’s advocacy center, to UGArden, a student run organization dedicated to providing fresh produce to the less fortunate.
According to Boness, program organizers were able to double graduate numbers from the previous year through lessons learned. Organizers took a systematic approach to program recruitment this year. Starting in January, all potential candidates for participation were contacted ahead of time and offered a position in the program. Once the program began, organizers also made sure th.at the availability of service opportunities was as high as possible as to accommodate the various schedules of those in the 17-24 age range.
Though it is unknown when the next YotuhServe program will be held, Boness believes that the program will continue to grow and continue its positive impact on the lives of its participants.
“The participants seemed to enjoy the program, ” Boness said. “I think [they] initially perhaps were reluctant to have that classroom setting but they learned a lot, not just from the facilitators and our content but from each other and having a chance to reflect on each other.”