Youth in Sampson County are offered unique advantages to succeed through myriad programs, from Teen Court and 4-H to athletics and special programs offered through the Boy and Girl scouts and geared toward those with special needs.
Each is unique in its own way and affords young people from every socio-economic group and every race an opportunity to expand their horizons, find second chances after poor first decisions and walk through doors that, without the programs, might not have been easily opened for them.
Take Teen Court, for example. That program reaches out to teens who’ve had their first minor scrape with law enforcement, giving them an up-close look into the court system without the harsh punishments that can come with poor choices.
But it doesn’t just touch troubled teens; it also impacts the lives of other youngsters who serve as judges and attorneys, giving them their own look into the legal system and, hopefully, helping them steer away from possible bad decisions of their own.
Overseen by Cooperative Extension’s 4-H program, Teen Court uses real-life situations to get the attention of young people. At the same time, it affords them greater responsibility in the outcome of the decisions they make.
Then there’s the Learning for Life Champions program, offered through Boy Scouts in classrooms across the public school systems.
That program focuses its attention on special needs students, offering them daily life skills that so many of us take for granted. Whether it’s teaching youngsters how to tie their shoes and care for their clothes or showing them good safety practices, Learning for Life reaches some of our most vulnerable young people in very beneficial ways.
And, of course, there’s athletics and 4-H, church groups and mentoring programs, all which touch different segments of our youth population, teaching them everything from good sportsmanship and competitiveness to manners and good behavioral practices.
In many ways, these programs are no different from those offered in neighboring counties, but given the commitment that so many make in ensuring these programs go above and beyond in reaching youth, letting them know people care and showing them there are things to do, places to go and successes to be had even in rural areas, it seems we struck gold.
While we know we have troubled youth in our midst, and some who opt for a dangerous path, it’s good to know there are programs out there that can — and often do — steer them away from courses they shouldn’t take and show them a better way.
For many those programs have made a tremendous difference in their lives already. For that we can all be thankful.