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Buckeye Reach program helps troubled youth see better future

Ohio State University is taking its educational resources off campus and to the Circleville Juvenile Correctional Facility.

Ohio State University is taking its educational resources off campus and to the Circleville Juvenile Correctional Facility.

Dr. Patty Cunningham wanted to come up with a way to end the cycle of imprisonment for hundreds of youth who end up sentenced to a correctional facility as teens.

“Really thinking about doing education in a different way because most of these kids come from failing schools or they weren't going to school a lot,” Dr. Cunningham said.

So, Dr. Cunningham came up with Buckeye Reach. It’s a program where OSU faculty and students spend countless hours volunteering with the youth inmates.

Together they teach a class called Social Movement, institute things like a Pen Pal program and offer therapy.

“We talk about race with them or we talk about women's issues, or we talk about LGBTQIA issues,” Jack Brandl said. “We talk about all these different issues so they can get a better understanding of other identity groups which builds empathy.”

Dr. Cunningham said the program is tri-fold and they are already seeing a difference in the inmates.

“They are thinking differently, they aren’t responding as violent as they would in a conversation, they are asking really good critical questions,” Cunningham said.

10TV spoke with two of the youth inmates at Circleville.

“I wanted something like this but I never really had a chance to be able to engage,” one boy who is 17 said. “It makes me feel as if it's a chance and I don't want to throw it away.”

Another inmate spoke about finding confidence in Dr. Cunningham’s class.

“To be honest, I didn't know I was this smart,” he said. “I feel wonderful. I feel special.”

Dr. Cunningham estimates about 120 youths at Circleville Juvenile Correctional have been impacted by Buckeye Reach. The students receive credit for their high school Social Studies course.