Youth-involved activities like summer jobs, group outings and continued education are particularly important in the summer, when teen crime rates typically spike. Research has found that keeping teens busy may suppress summer crime and violence — one study last year reported a 43 percent reduction in violent crime among teens who participated in a part-time summer job for 13 weeks.
For Reclaiming Futures in Forsyth County, North Carolina, the summer enrichment program for juvenile drug treatment court youth goes beyond that.
“We want to promote self-awareness among teens,” explains Reclaiming Futures Forsyth County Project Director Jemi Sneed. “Our summer enrichment program motivates teens to understand that good behavior and being a positive contributor to the community can lead to positive results like graduation and jobs”
A Coordinated Effort
In partnership with the local chapter of 4-H, a positive youth development and mentoring organization, and local community organizations and business, Forsyth County is able to provide a multi-faceted summer enrichment program that includes educational curriculum classes and fun outings.
The program uses Paper City curriculum designed to foster leadership in young people and inspire communities to achieve the American Dream. Most recently, Forsyth County plans to bring in minority leaders to spread awareness about community civil rights, public health groups to discuss safe sex, and fraternity groups to educate kids on community service opportunities.
“Our goal is to reiterate the idea that in order to be part of your community, you need to understand and be an active contributor to community growth,” says Sneed.
Whether it’s video curriculum, a speaker or a discussion, these Tuesday sessions aim to stimulate students to dream.
If students participate in the Tuesday curriculum, they have the opportunity to enjoy a Thursday fun activity in the community—a positive reinforcement tool that also builds on the community-driven curriculum of Paper City.
Forsyth County partners with local businesses, organizations and events to bring interesting, exclusive opportunities to teens, such as fishing, bowling or going to the movies. Coming up in early August, teens will get the chance to attend and volunteer at Winston-Salem’s National Black Theater Festival. The partnership also offers teens opportunities to participate in workshops with celebrities featured at the event.
“Laying the Foundation for Success”
The project has such promise that it has expanded to juvenile justice involved youth in addition to participants in the Reclaiming Futures Juvenile Drug Treatment Court.
The pairing of education curriculum and positive, community-driven activities is something that Sneed hopes can be extended throughout the school year.
“Through this summer enrichment program, these teens can learn that one person can spark change for the better. Once they have the confidence and understanding of what it takes to pave their own paths, they’ll be less likely to skip school and more motivated to graduate and apply for jobs. This program, and all the people who contributed to making it happen, are truly laying the foundation for success.”
The Forsyth County summer enrichment program couldn’t have been successful without Mark Kenney, treatment care coordinator, Shanika Gray, 4-H Youth Development Extension Agent, and all of the court staff and volunteer support.