Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Programming for At-Risk Youth

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Programming for At-Risk Youth

Article excerpt

Making a difference to at-risk youth requires a balance of patience and support

Programming can be difficult, even in the most ideal situations. When programming for at-risk youth, the difficulty multiplies exponentially. Trust is a difficult obstacle to surmount with these young men and women, and it is vital for success. Many adults in their lives are not positive influences, so we have to work harder to ensure as professionals we create a safe, trusting environment, conducive to growth and development. For trust to develop, they need constant support and a kept promise that you will be there for them.

The North Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (NCDJJDP) defines an at-risk youth as "a juvenile who has not been adjudicated (found guilty or not guilty of a crime), delinquent or undisciplined; or has demonstrated significant inappropriate or anti-social behavior that would suggest a high probability of court involvement; and/or has one or more identified risk factors for delinquency" (www.ncdjjdp.org). Though two programs I have directed, I have learned firsthand the importance that dedicated time plays in the success of at-risk youth programs.

In 2011, a local mentoring program cooperated with local master gardeners and the parks and recreation department to integrate a special section into the community garden for at-risk youth. The project took place throughout the summer, aiming to teach the youths involved about the skills and processes involved in gardening and give them something to be proud of through their hard work. When the season drew to a close, several participants entered the county fair, and one even won first prize for a flower arrangement made from plants he grew. The next stage of this project was to teach them how to cook with their produce. Over the four-month program, the young men involved, most of whom had been court appointed to attend, found they were good at something and were recognized for that ability with monetary rewards and ribbons from entries into the county fair. To them, this was a great success, and they often spoke of the community garden and how they wanted to do it again.

The second program was a weeklong art camp, and only young men and women who were referred to the program were eligible to participate. …

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