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Jessica Thomas is a Sophomore in the Honors College studying Criminal Justice. She got her inspiration for her Take the Lead project as a freshmen when she toured the Jackson County Juvenile Detention facility as a “Pick and Choose” activity. Read her reflection on how she took the lead in bringing youth in the Barriers to Bridges residential treatment program to SOU.
Jessica reflected on her “Take the Lead”:
During my freshman year in the honors program I decided to tour the Jackson County Juvenile Detention facility as a “pick and choose” activity. Little did I know that I would become beyond fascinated with everything that I learned on the tour. A few days after the tour, while writing my reflection for the Honors Program I realized that I wanted to apply for a part time extra- help position at the detention center. As I began working within the facility, I fell in love with the idea of restorative justice and finding ways to bring it to life. Within the facility there is a residential treatment program that goes by the title of Barriers to Bridges.The design of this facility provides opportunities to implement approaches to dealing with issues that contribute to the criminal thinking and behavior of youth. By addressing these issues, youth have a greater chance of becoming positive, contributing community members. The Medford School District provides a full-day, year-round education program for youth enrolled in the residential program. The youth also have access to mental health and health services both on and off-site, attend skill development groups, engage in daily structured recreation and other activities, and have opportunities for home passes and community-based activities.
“I wanted to spark the idea in their heads that they too can go to college and be successful in the long run despite any mistakes they may have made in the past.”
– Jessica Thomas
As I have spent quite a bit of time working with these youth, I have gotten to learn about each youth’s upbringing and how for many of them the idea of going to college was never a thought. My “Take the Lead” project was based around the idea of introducing the youth to a college atmosphere while learning about all of the benefits of pursuing a college education. I wanted to spark the idea in their heads that they too can go to college and be successful in the long run despite any mistakes they may have made in the past.
For my project I partnered with the admissions department and TRIO. Admissions ran the tour for the students all over campus, and were even able to take us into some empty dorm rooms. TRIO was an amazing addition to this project because they focus primarily on first generation students and help offer various resources such as daily tutoring. They also offer grants and other ways of financial support to the youth who meet this need.
The project ended up being a huge success, and I could not have expected a more positive outcome. In order to evaluate the success of my project I gave the youth two questionnaires that were based on a likert scale. The pre questionnaire and post questionnaire had the first few questions stay exactly the same, so I would be able to gauge if their interest was sparked after the trip. When looking at the pre questionnaire, I learned that 6/10 of the youth were first generation students.When asking each individual how interested they were in going to college the answers varied. 7/10 of the youth showed very little interest in thinking about pursuing a college degree. By the end of the trip, all 10 youth circled that they were HIGHLY interested in pursuing a college degree.
The youth spent most of their typical “school day” on campus from 9:30 AM- 2:00 PM. The youth started off their trip receiving goody bags that were personalized for each kid. They had their favorite snacks, drinks, and some other fun sensory items. They then started the morning by meeting with TRIO, who then had admissions take over for the tour. During the tour I really enjoyed seeing the youth engaged and asking questions while also having a smile on their face even if it was hot and smoky outside.They were able to see for themselves that even when they are not in a residential treatment setting, they can still get all of the support and resources they would need while attending college. After the tour, the youth ended their afternoon with enjoying some nachos in the honors college and enjoying the lounge area by playing ping pong and pool.
“This experience showed me that being a leader does not mean that you need to be “high and mighty” and always have an answer for everything.”
– Jessica Thomas
This experience showed me that being a leader does not mean that you need to be “high and mighty” and always have an answer for everything. It is always encouraged to work with others in order to achieve a higher level of success. Rather than focusing on the aspects of being in charge , I wanted to help motivate and inspire the youth to do all of the great things that I know they are capable of doing by working with all of the available resources on our amazing campus. The most rewarding part of the project for me was hearing some of the youth tell me about their change of heart. Many of them did not know anything about college, nor did they care to learn about it. By the end of the trip, many of the youth were talking to staff members about setting up meetings with admissions counselors to start figuring out how to apply to college.