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Girl Scout Program Helps At Risk Youth

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On the other side of barbed wire, you would expect to find hardened criminals, but a Copper Lake School detention facility all you see are young girls. Girls ages 12 to 21 who've made a few mistakes in their short lives, including breaking the law.

"It can be anything from stealing a car to a homicide," Corrections Unit Supervisor Lori McAllister explains.

McAllister has been working at Copper Lake School for more than 20 years. In that time she says she's seen an increase in the number of girls passing through their doors.

"Being a girl is very difficult," McAllister admits adding, "No matter where you are or what your background is like, I think being a girl is tough."

That's why for the last two years the school has partnered with area Girl Scouts to put on a specially designed program for at risk teens and tweens, appropriately titled "New Visions." Twice a month Girl Scout leaders visit Copper Lake School and work with girls on everything from career exploration to arts and crafts.

"They enjoy it," McAllister says. "I think they get lost in it for awhile and they almost forget where they are."

While they're working, they're also learning about one of the most important keys to their rehabilitation, themselves.

"This just gives them a chance to take a look at who they are and maybe accepting that they're not perfect. It's OK. You don't have to be perfect. You just need to be the best you can be and learn from your mistakes," McAllister explains.

Girls can stay at Copper Lake School anywhere from six months to a few years. After they leave, some go back home, other to foster care and still others to group homes or other transitional living centers.

Staff and volunteers hope the confidence the girls gain while participating in the "New Visions" program will continue to motivate them to stay on the right path and achieve their dreams.

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