Youthful offenders pose a different challenge for corrections officials these days. A jail cell is usually not the answer. Now, there’s a unique facility that's making a difference in the lives of at-risk girls.
Beyond the woods and chain-link fence that surrounds a compound in Vernon you would expect to find some sort of prison.
Kiera DesChamps is the Center Director of Vernon Place in Washington County and says, "The difference between us and a correctional facility is that we treat our girls like human beings.”
She says Vernon is an alternative to a corrections facility.
"Once we get the girls here we find that they may have been involved in crimes and a lot of these girls have been traumatized in some kind of way."
They also have the opportunity to get on track with their education.
Frieda Cook is the Principal Designee of the facility. She says, “We operate as a second chance high school. These girls are coming to us and lots of them never have gone to school successfully."
Cook says that's why the motto of this school is “to improve the future of a child, one life at a time.”
"They need someone to love them and tell them they can succeed and everyday you tell them they can succeed. Yeah, you may take a step back but you take two steps forward, and you can be a success today."
Vernon Place is one 42 schools around the country that are supported by Eckerd Youths Alternatives. The program is for girls 13 to 19 years old. Vernon Place recently held an open house where the girls presented hand-made quilts to elderly community members.
If you’re interested in volunteering or mentoring at Vernon Place, call 850-535-6513.