Lawmakers in Minnesota are calling for financial support for youth intervention programs that redirect troubled kids before they end up committing serious crimes.
State senator Melisa Franzen and Representative Dan Schoen (Dist. 54-A) say that for every dollar spent in grant money, the state gets back $5 in state and court costs. It costs about $2,000 to enter a kid into the program. That's compared to $3500 for a court case, $73,000 for residential treatment of just one student, $86,000 for juvenile corrections facility. Advocates say the program keeps kids out of court and from re-offending as adults.
"It works with kids just starting to get in trouble," Scott Brady of Youth Intervention Programs Association said. "The idea is to make sure when they start making choices that aren't good for them, that be put them on the right path, and make sure they are heading in the right direction."
Former student Tschida Hendersen went through one of those programs and believes it really did help her.
"It was more of ditching, a couple fights here and there, not really turning homework in," Hendersen said of her past troubles. She said she would forgo homework to play outside instead and not fess up when asked if she had assignments on the docket.
While she didn't end up in criminal trouble, any student knows it's possible to get off on the wrong foot.
"I started in St. Paul and that's when we got kind of transferred over to Brooklyn Park," Hendersen said. "I didn't really want to go to school there, but I was forced, so that blocked me from doing everything I wanted to do. I stayed at home, really didn't like to meet people at school. I kept to myself."
Hendersen recalled how her mentor helped her stay out of trouble.
"My mentor would kick my butt if I got in trouble," Hendersen said. "She's a Brooklyn Park police officer. She helped me with school. If I needed help with papers, homework, I call her Monday through Friday, she was there. She kind of got involved with my family, teaching my little brothers."
Hendersen graduated from high school, and now she's looking at a potential collegiate career at Metro State University.
"I mean, all you got to do is put your mind to it, even if you don't got support at home," she said. "There are other people willing to support you with the youth intervention programs."
She also said her mentorship program with Officer Tony, as she calls her, was such a good program she now wants to study criminal justice when she gets to college.