Disciplining students who break laws is always a difficult question for educators and juvenile probation officers. A program in Bartlesville, Oklahoma is trying a new approach. The group is called Run the Streets, and they’re offering teens in trouble with the law the chance to avoid detention or probation by participating in a running program.
The teenagers train for and complete a half marathon. Adult mentors also run with the teens to provide an extra dimension of support and encouragement. Not only do the teens get fit, they also build self-confidence and self-discipline. “I wanted to develop alternatives to traditional probation where kids would be internally motivated to change their behaviors rather than depending on external negative consequences, which are by and large ineffective,” explains founder Bob Williams, who is also a probation officer and runner.
According to Williams, many of the participating teens exhibit enthusiasm for the program. “I’ve never considered myself much of an athlete, so from a young age I convinced myself that I wouldn’t achieve success in a sport or physical activity,” said 14-year-old Becca. “Run the Streets has made it possible for me to find the most amazing sense of accomplishment I’ve ever felt, from something that I didn’t even think I was capable of.”
The relapse rate also shows that the program has a positive impact. Those who participated in Run the Streets have a relapse rate of only four percent, while those who are placed in group homes relapse at a rate of 25 percent. This comparison may be somewhat skewed due to the fact that the teens choose to participate in the running program voluntarily, but the benefits of Run the Streets are undeniable.
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