News / USA

Instead of Jail, Teen Offenders Try a Fresh Start

Instead of Jail, Teen Offenders Get a Fresh Starti
X
July 01, 2013 2:09 PM
Teens who get in trouble with the law - fighting, stealing, doing drugs - may be expelled from school or even end up in jail. Helping these teens change their path in life is a challenge, but it is not impossible. Over the course of less than a year, a program in the Washington DC area takes young men referred by the courts or social workers, and gives them that Fresh Start. Faiza Elmasry reports. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Instead of Jail, Teen Offenders Get a Fresh Start
Faiza Elmasry
Terrence Sinclair was 17 when he ran into trouble.

“I got into a couple of fights or something and that led to me actually getting detained,” he said.

Instead of being sentenced to prison, as an adult might have been, Sinclair was sent to the Fresh Start program in the Washington, D.C. area. He now spends his days studying for his high school diploma, while also learning a vocation.

“I wanted to come out and get my education," he said. "You got to do it for yourself because I know at the end of the day, if I want to get mine, I have to still sit down and do my work.”

More than a dozen young men, between 16 and 19 years old, attend classes at the Fresh Start program. Each one has made some bad decisions and is determined to turn his life around.

“Sometimes they come in a little reluctant," said Kenneth Talley, a carpentry instructor. "Then they get creative and start making their own products.  That’s when they start getting interested.”

Working in the wood and metal class teaches them other lessons.

“It gives them patience," Talley said. "It teaches them how to follow directions, make a plan for constructing whatever they’re constructing. [It] also gives them gratification after they finish. They see the end of their work.”

Once they’re motivated, says Fresh Start Director Toni Lemons, the young men are eager to absorb knowledge.

The program also helps them navigate their way in the job market.  The Workforce Development class, for example, teaches them how to write a resume and prepare for a job interview.

“This is where they build their soft skills," Lemons said. "They’re writing resumes. They’re learning how to do cover letters, learning basic things: how to respond to questions in interviews, body language and gestures and how that can potentially impact you when you’re in an interview."

In the Life Skills class, students learn other skills they need to succeed in career and personal life.

“How to tie a tie, which is very important when it comes to going on a job interview." Lemons said. "They learn how to budget, to be able to maintain their finances.”

Outdoor classes are as important as indoor ones, and so are community events where Fresh Start students mentor younger kids, which helps them gain confidence to become role models themselves.

“The very important thing with that is that a lot of our young people don’t really experience that on a day-to-day basis," Lemons said. "So our job is to help them to get connected with their community.”

At the end of the 11-month-long program, Fresh Start helps its graduates, like 18-year-old Tayron Gerald, find a job.

"They treat you like adults," Gerald said. "The whole program is like a career. They give you a job. They give you a voice. In a traditional high school, you don’t really get a voice. I still want to become an engineer. I believe I can do it.”

Lemons has high hopes for the teenager's future.

“This is a young man who, throughout facing adversity, continued to push forward," she said. "He’s a hard worker. He’s very dedicated. He understands opportunities, and one of the things that he does is capitalize on them. Now he’s working in a receptionist position.”

Gerald believes the program works because it understands what troubled young men need to break their old, bad habits. Fresh Start is designed to help troubled young men realize they're part of the community and truly have a chance to make a fresh start.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Rick Hann from: NH
July 06, 2013 6:56 AM
This has got to be the best program for young people I have ever heard of.
it doesn't say if it is state or privately run.
I would surely invest in young people in this way.
very inspiring.

by: Yoshi from: Sapporo
July 02, 2013 4:16 AM
There is no one who never run into trouble in life. No matter how old we are, we can try a fresh start anytime only when we just make a decision. Thank you.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs