Program pays dividends to county, youth

Published 12:01 am Friday, May 22, 2015

We all complain about government programs — the waste, the bureaucracy, the paperwork.

When a program — small and grass roots in nature — does exactly what it is designed to do we find it refreshing. When the program does its work efficiently and effectively, recognition is in order.

On Wednesday, five young people — four men and one woman, all age 18 and under — graduated from the Adams County Adolescent Opportunity Program.

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Former Adams County Youth Court Judge John Hudson pioneered the AOP program and newly elected youth court judge Walt Brown is continuing to nurture it. It is an intensive probation system that takes young people, who are on the brink of ruining their lives, and provides them the support of a mentor, teaches them anger management and positive decision-making skills.

It’s up to the young person involved in the program to prove they are capable of being a productive member of society. What the young person makes of the opportunity presented to them through the program is entirely up to them.

The five who graduated Wednesday night expressed their gratitude for a second chance. Each now has a clear focus of what they want to make of their future. Most importantly, each has the self-esteem and motivation to achieve those goals.

The program, which began in 1995, has been wildly successful, statistics show. Only a small percentage — 5 percent last time we checked — return to the justice system as an offender, records show.

That early intervention and intensive work with the young offender is the key to keeping that young person from becoming a criminal as an adult.

And that is the value to you, me and generations of Adams County residents to come.