Carson City’s Juvenile Probation department graduated 12 local youth, ages 12 to 18 serving probation sentences of varying lengths, from the Entrepreneur Mentorship Program this week. The celebration was attended by local dignitaries, including Mayor Bob Crowell, Assemblyman P.K. O’Neill, Ron Swirczek, immediate past president and member of the Carson City School Board, and the Honorable James T. Russell, district court judge for the 1st judicial district.
Students on probation must attend classes in a variety of programs while serving sentences. One such program is the Entrepreneur Mentorship Program offered by the Youth Entrepreneur Syndicate based in Reno comprised of Dr. Mark Pingle, Dr. John Moran, Kelly Northridge, Brian Cooper and Fred Jakolat of Reno, and headed up by Jeff Glass, formerly the executive director of the New Entrepreneur Network of the Hop and Mae Adams Foundation.
“The objective of the program is for students to come away feeling like they have an extra tool in their tool belt to draw from,” Glass said. “Students who go through juvenile probation often feel like they’ve been branded. All of our kids, not just probation students, are ‘at risk’ and they are all at the same starting point, with their whole lives ahead of them. We have to help these kids realize they are in the same game with the same chance of winning as all kids are.”
Glass said the program relies heavily on themes of honor in the workplace, what it means to set up and be responsible for a business, and the importance of partnerships in both business and in life.
“We teach our students that we are the sum total of our decisions, that the decisions we make now can really chart the path for a better life,” Glass said. “The reason they are on probation is that they wanted to take charge of their own lives and make decisions, whether those decision led to being in trouble or not.”
Entrepreneurship, Glass said, is showing students how to put taking authority for themselves and making decisions into the appropriate boundaries. Students making their own decisions must respect the culture they live in and the people around them, as well as, most importantly, having respect for themselves.
“When we make a mistake, we feel defeated,” he said. “My goal is to teach them what is possible. Like Mayor Crowell said in his keynote address, one of the key elements of entrepreneurship is to pull ourselves up and keep going after we get knocked down.”
Crowell, who addressed the students during the ceremony, said programs like EMP are a great way to create generational sustainability in a community.
“Helping young people make the right choices helps everyone, young and old alike,” Crowell said. “Entrepreneurism at its core teaches our youth critical thinking, problem solving and how to make wise and thoughtful decisions.”
Jourdan Rowbottom, Jobs for America’s Graduates specialist at Pioneer High School, has facilitated the probation program with Glass over the past year, and has incorporated key tenets of the program into her work at PHS. She said more than half of her students are either on probation or have been on probation, so the collaboration was a natural endeavor for her to take on in order to better serve the students who need this mentorship the most both at school and out in the community.
“The powerful success stories really come from the students’ abilities to reflect confidently and naturally about their lives — the choices they made, the opportunities that exist, and the impact this has on their future goals,” she said. “For many of these students, the mentorship program was the first place they felt comfortable and confident enough to share their thoughts and, as entrepreneurs, they developed their skill of taking risks and building relationships with others to accomplish a common goal.”
According to Ali Banister, deputy chief juvenile probation officer for Carson City Juvenile Probation Services, this was the third entrepreneurship program that has run through juvenile probation, and the second graduation ceremony held at the office.
“I have witnessed several success stories coming out of this program,” she said. “I’ve seen kids obtain jobs within the community, graduate from school and go onto attend college. Many have learned skills, like how to build resumes, and interview for jobs. One graduate even claimed the program ‘changed his life.’”
Banister said one of the biggest takeaways the students walk away with is self-confidence, and Glass is largely responsible for that.
“I truly feel that every youth that walks through the door and completes the program leaves with a different skill set and difference in self-confidence,” she said. “Jeff Glass is the reason why this program is successful. I’ve noticed the kids want to partake in the program because they like Jeff and like what he is teaching. He is the reason this program is successful and he is the reason the kids want to be there.”
YES will continue to run three 10-week EMP programs per year through juvenile probation services. Glass plans to incorporate an alumni portion of the programming where students are addressed by those who have previously gone through the course to help them relate with the possibilities lying ahead for them.
“Students may not always relate to a guy in a business suit,” he said. “But they do relate to other students giving testimony. They don’t interrupt, they maintain eye contact and they can understand the stories of people who have been in their shoes.”
Glass said the program has been successful because from the top down, probation services staff have bought into the requirements and are participating in the coursework.
“Probation officers show up to the class, they hold students accountable for the work being done to honor and reinforce the program,” he said. “It’s all there — love, honor and caring. Everyone is working together.”
Ben Bianchi, chief juvenile probation officer said Glass has impacted the youth at juvenile probation and has played an instrumental role in many of their lives.
“Jeff is a mentor, teacher and true inspiration to each and every one of them,” he said. “Most of all, his lessons are focused around honor and hope, which have inspired these kids to make changes in their lives to improve their futures.”
The graduation ceremony ended with an opportunity for students to employ newly learned networking skills by mingling with and speaking to guests.
“It is unbelievably rewarding to have a young person shake your hand and thank you for helping them get ahead,” Crowell said. “I’m extremely proud of these students.”