Wake juvenile offenders get second chance at education

Posted January 28, 2010 11:08 a.m. EST

— Teens in trouble with the law are often suspended or expelled from school, but a Wake County program is helping juvenile delinquents learn basic skills to succeed in school and life.

Juvenile court judges often refer young offenders, ages 6 to 17, to the Juvenile Literacy Center in Raleigh, which opened a year ago.

“We want them all to be successful,” said Wake County Chief District Court Judge Robert Rader. “We want them to not end up in the adult system.”

Tiffany Davis, 14, spent time in juvenile court and said the program has helped her.

“In the past, I really haven’t been doing so well in school, and so I wanted to go ahead and improve in school and make A-B honor roll,” she said.

Tiffany, an eighth-grader, meets twice a week with Charis Link, a Campbell Law school student who serves as a volunteer tutor.

“She’s really, really nice,” Tiffany said.

The center is working with 37 students. Most are tutored for six months or more, with the goal of getting them back into school or earning a GED.

“Some of our students are significantly behind. We have some middle school students reading at a first grade level or so,” said Jamie Jones with the Juvenile Literacy Center.

Literacy center officials say the students are showing better behavior, better self-esteem and a boost in academic skills.

“They say I improve every day or every time I come, I guess,” Tiffany said.

The Juvenile Literacy Center is on the seventh floor of the Wake County Courthouse. The center also offers four other tutoring sites in Raleigh and is looking to expand at other school sites.