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Youngstown, OH

"S.M.A.R.T. Moves" Chess Program

I am employed with the Fulton County Juvenile Court as a Juvenile Court Officer. We serve approximately 50 teens per week with criminal charges including gang activity, robbery, burglary, carjacking, drug possession & trafficking and runaway. Virtually every teens involvement with the juvenile courts began with a history of neglect, abandonment or abuse. Over 90% of our teens also come from homes where the father is absent and many teens turn to substance abuse as a means of self medicating to, in their words, "reduce stress". During their up to 8 hour stay at the juvenile court awaiting a hearing, I have an opportunity to talk with our teens. Most are good kids, dealing with overwhelming environmental and peer pressures, with limited parental supervision, guidance and support. Virtually all are receptive to advice and guidance, but need immediate support and mentoring upon release from detention. We implemented the "S.M.A.R.T. Moves" Chess and Mentoring Program for boys. We meet every Friday at the Juvenile Court, from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. Our slogan is "teach young men to make Smart Moves in Chess and life". Our mission is to provide activities, services and mentors to prepare males for the challenges of manhood and responsible fatherhood. "S.M.A.R.T." is an acronym for Science, Math, Arts, Reading and Technology. Our mentors (Deputies, Probation Officers, college students and parents) also provides homework help and tutoring for teens. We started the program 2 months ago and we have up to 25 teens and adult volunteers per week attending regularly. Our goal is to register 50 teens in the Chess Program and develop a competitive chess team of reformed "teen leaders" who will share their personal stories of choices, consequences, overcoming obstacles and smart moves with elementary, middle and high school students in Fulton County and Atlanta Public Schools. Many participants are former gang members who can also advise teens how to avoid gang involvement.

Funded by Atlanta, GA (April 2014)