LEAF Academy keeps troubled Bradley Co. teens on track
The Bradley County juvenile court system says it means business when it comes to getting at-risk youth back on track.
Right now the court is wrapping up its six week behavior modification program which entails intense physical training for the troubled teens, as well as classroom time.
It is not just the young cadets that benefit but also the instructors as well.
The LEAF Academy has been in place since 1997 in Bradley County. LEAF stands for law, enforcement academic and fitness.
Channel 3 got an inside look at what the teens go through.
"When we introduce this we tell them life is full of obstacles and you have to negotiate and go on," says Cleveland Police SRO Brian Montgomery.
The young cadets are being pushed to the limit as a part of the LEAF Academy in Bradley County.
"They learn that they can do things that they never thought they could," says Montgomery.
"I want to see those kids be able make good choices, respect themselves. Because if they don't respect themselves they're not going to respect us. They're not going to respect anyone out there," says LEAF director Nancy Stanfield.
Juvenile probation officer Nancy Stanfield is the director of LEAF and has been with the program since it started in 1997.
She says the academy serves as alternative sentencing for teens who have gotten in trouble for a variety of reasons, whether it be drugs or skipping school.
"Some of these kids are afraid to pass everything. They're afraid to succeed because they've never completed. They've never succeeded before," says Stanfield.
She says they do not mess around. The current class started with around 45 students.
"Right now we're down to 19," she says.
Besides physical tests, the cadets are drug tested and have instructional class time going over language arts, math, and anger management.
The cadets say it is a life-changing experience.
"It's discipline," says 16-year-old Alexus Dunn. "But it's good discipline. It'll change your whole attitude on everything."
"I was smoking weed and failed a drug test and stuff and court," says 16-year-old cadet Kane Hullender. When asked what his hopes for the future are: "To stop smoking weed and get my life back on track and do better in school and stuff."
"It's helping me with my attitude and not to mess up again. Because I don't want to come back here. It's hard. It's rough," says 16-year-old Megan Wiseman.
"We've had several that've come back and said thank you. 'I don't know where I'd be if it hadn't been for LEAF,'" says Montgomery.
"I am so proud of these kids," says Stanfield.
Those kicked out of the program have to do community service.
In the 18 years of the academy, 649 cadets have graduated.
The latest class graduates this Friday.