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Teen court seeks help

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Reach for Youth, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that oversees teen court programs in Marion and Johnson counties and over 250 teen court volunteers, must raise $15,000 by March 1 to keep afloat.

Indianapolis attorney and board member Jimmie McMillian, who has been involved for nine years and has volunteered as a judge in teen court, is asking people to give at least $10, which he said can make a difference for the "pee wee league for the legal profession."

Teen court is a diversion program for juveniles accused of non-violent crimes. Their peers - volunteers age 10-17 - serve as attorneys and jurors. Participants in teen court are mentored by lawyers and law school students. Juvenile offenders often become involved with teen court as volunteers, while offender and non-offender volunteers may ultimately decide to become attorneys.

"For kids in our community who have an interest in the law, this helps them in a very real way," he said. "If that doesn't inspire attorneys, I don't know what will."

(Indiana Lawyer published a story about teen court programs around Indiana in the Dec. 13 - 26, 2006, issue, "A jury of their peers.")

Reach for Youth is also waiting for responses about grants they've applied for. Because it remains unknown when they will receive grant money or how much they will receive, every bit helps, he said.

"Our staff took a 10 percent pay cut," he added. "We have already been reducing staff, cutting back cutting back cutting back, and now we're at bare bones."

In response to his initial e-mail sent in early February, McMillian has received a few donations and at least nine calls from parents asking how their children can get involved.

Anyone interested in learning more about Reach for Youth or getting involved may contact Christopher Nunn, Reach for Youth Inc., 3505 N. Washington Blvd., Indianapolis, IN 46208. Checks may be made payable to "Reach for Youth, Inc."

The organization can also accept donations by credit card. Call Nunn at (317) 920-5900. The Web site for Reach for Youth, Inc. is http://www.reachforyouth.org.

When asked what would happen if the organization doesn't raise $15,000, McMillian said, "The board hasn't made a decision yet. I'm looking at this like I'm going to get this money. I'm not entertaining failure. ... I can't believe we can't get $15,000 out of the Indianapolis legal community."

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