San Bernardino County, California, is currently ranked as the 3rd highest county with gang activity nationwide, with 40,558 gang members. Wow! Those are huge numbers. And it appears that many of these gang members are at risk youth headed toward potential crime and eventual incarceration, putting yet more burden on the already over-taxed California prison system.

In 2001, a non-profit organization called, Young Visionaries Youth Leadership Academy was developed to help enrich the lives of at-risk youth through life building activities and instruction in the areas of education, employment, health, mentoring and community service. The Young Visionaries Youth Leadership Academy provides training in academic development, violence prevention, employment development, leadership and life skills development, teen pregnancy prevention and more to help youth at-risk live more enhanced lives without serving time in a correctional facility.

“we provide effective services for at-risk youth emphasizing and encouraging the 3 Es: Education, Empowerment and Engagement.”

Recently, the Academy developed green job training as part of it’s employment development program. This particular program offers training and employment in “green-collar” work, addressing the philosophy of sustainability domestically and worldwide. The program is hoping to instill in their students, respect for the earth, responsibility, commitment and social contribution. In May of 2012, the Young Visionaries Youth Leadership Academy will be hosting a green jobs fair, hosted by the California State University in San Bernardino.

Other programs that the Young Visionaries Youth Leadership Academy are involved with include an annual Toy Drive for the holidays, mentoring with the San Bernadino Police Officers Association, the Forward Focus Leadership Program, after school tutoring, college counseling, community outreach and the youth employment development program–giving youth  the experience of real-life business skills and on the job training. They also work in conjunction with shelters for homeless youth and runaways.

What is so inspiring about the Young Visionaries Youth Leadership Academy is their commitment to educate and empower youth at-risk who would have no where else to turn to. It would be great to see more preventive programs such as this to keep our youth from being incarcerated.

“We appreciate working in partnership with Young Visionaries to continue to change lives for the better.” Michelle Scray, Chief Probation Officer, San Bernadino County Probation Dept.

About Christopher Zoukis, MBA

Christopher Zoukis, MBA, is the Managing Director of the Zoukis Consulting Group, a federal prison consultancy that assists attorneys, federal criminal defendants, and federal prisoners with prison preparation, in-prison matters, and reentry. His books include Directory of Federal Prisons (Middle Street Publishing, 2020), Federal Prison Handbook (Middle Street Publishing, 2017), Prison Education Guide (PLN Publishing, 2016), and College for Convicts: The Case for Higher Education in American Prisons (McFarland & Company, 2014).

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