New program offers kids careers over crime

February 12, 2008

News 12 at 6 o'clock

AUGUSTA, Ga--- It's a major new effort to push a generation away from crime and toward a career.

Augusta State University's Athletic Director was in Atlanta Tuesday - asking the local legislative delegation for help. Clint Bryant wants to reach out to the very same young people the gangs are going after.

Flashing lights, another crime scene leading to a constant flow of mug shots on the television screen. It's a parade of faces that's become all too routine for ASU Athletic Director, Coach Clint Bryant.

"And I think a lot of that is occurring because young people don't feel like the American dream is for them and they're going about reaching it all the wrong ways."

Coach Bryant says even some of his college athletes are just a scholarship away from being on the streets themselves. He wants to offer something better to the young men and women who think of crime as the only career option they've got.

"I want to look at a number of different groups, kids coming out of high school and people who may have been in trouble- or on their way to trouble where a judge wants to give them a second chance."

And so he's launching the CARE commission. CARE stands for Changing Attitudes, Refocusing Efforts. It's a pilot program that would cover 6 counties in Georgia and South Carolina, matching up young people with job training with the help of tech schools, the courts, and local labor unions.

"Do you know, we have young people in our society, they're 18 and 19 and have never worked a job?" Bryant said, "I think there's something wrong with that."

So what does Clint Bryant want state lawmakers to do?

"I want them to say we believe in this program. I want the mayor to believe,our legislators to say we believe in this program and lets go for it."

Coach Bryant says it's a win-win situation. The kids get real job training making decent money. The tech schools get students they might not see otherwise. The labor unions get more working members, we all get the skilled workers we need to build new things and keep everything running. If it works, the jails won't be nearly as crowded.

Bryant says there's a lot of wasted potential behind bars.

"A whole lot of wasted and untapped potential. That's a sad state, especially when we talk about black males. There are more African American males locked up than in our colleges."

But if coach Bryant gets his way, that will be changing. And if it works in Augusta, it could be a model for the rest of the state and even the nation. It's an ambitious plan- but he would like to see the first class of 300 students enrolled by this fall.

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