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Course on Juvenile Offenders: Laura's Story

May 2014

All students enrolled in the "Psychology and Treatment of the Juvenile Offender" course must complete a service-learning experience with at-risk or adjudicated teens at one of four community sites.  Here is Laura's story:

Laura Robinson
Laura Robinson

As I began spring semester, I still did not have a clear vision of where I wanted to concentrate my attention for a future career in psychology. I thought the course sounded interesting and was excited to learn that we would actually get out into the community and interact with the individuals we were learning about. The classroom portion offers information about research, trends and treatments, but the opportunity to be immersed in the population you are learning about brings a completely new interest and understanding.

I choose Achieving Maximum Potential (AMP) as my service-learning experience. This group meets at the Annie Wittenmyer School twice a month and provides social activities to the youth who attend school there. 

The first night I was apprehensive because I had never had the chance to talk to kids in their situations before. Over the course of the night, I talked with a few of the boys about their backgrounds and they really began to open up. Before I knew it, the meeting was over, and so was my required outing for the course. I could have just written my paper about the experience and moved on to some other classwork but I when I got back to my room that night, I couldn't stop thinking about those kids. I really wanted to find out more about their lives and what I could do to help them.

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I've since attended nearly every AMP meeting and have built a good relationship with a 14-year-old boy in the program. When he tells me about his life and background, it just makes me feel so much compassion for the struggle that he has gone through, and I want to be able to be someone to whom they can turn to for whatever support they may need. As a recent meeting was wrapping up, my new friend asked if I would be coming to the next meeting. I told him I wouldn't miss it, and his reply completely validated my anticipated career path. He asked if I would like him to draw me a picture of whatever I liked most, because I was fun to talk to. His offer gave me a feeling of fulfillment and the first real certainty about my future career path. I can do this work. I can establish a professional relationship with individuals that I maybe can't relate to on any other level, other than being a person who genuinely wants to help them. The relationship I've built with him over the past months has shown that the stereotypes people form about these youth are so wrong. These kids and this learning opportunity taught me that they are just people, who have traveled a different road than me.

I intend to graduate from Ambrose and continue schooling to get my Masters in Counseling. And I cannot wait to see my drawing at the next meeting.

A senior next year, Robinson is majoring in psychology and double minoring in sociology and biology.

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