Contributed by Prince William County Bar Association
Eighteen youth received scholarships or laptop computers in recognition of their outstanding achievements at the annual Beat the Odds® Banquet on June 5, 2014, which is sponsored by the Prince William County Bar Association with funding from the Prince William County Bar Foundation. The local Beat the Odds® Program is an adaption of a similar program developed by the National Children’s Defense Fund, and seeks to recognize and affirm the academic and social progress made by youth who have come in contact with the juvenile justice system.
Many of the youth honored at this year’s BTO Banquet have endured physical, sexual, and psychological abuse by their parents, care givers or older siblings. They have experienced multiple evictions, unsanitary conditions at home, chronic hunger, and home environments filled with alcohol and drug abuse. What happens to a child who faces these kinds of circumstances? Sometimes, they turn to the same drug and alcohol abuse they see in the home. Sometimes they run away, join a gang, or attempt suicide. These negative reactions to their harsh environments are what led to intervention by juvenile authorities. But that’s when things began to turn around, with the help of the courts, case workers, probation officers and loving foster families, these children found the support and stability they needed to not only survive, but thrive.
During their high school years, they have all come to terms with their past and resolved to chart a different course for their future. This theme was evident in the artistic display developed by the residents of the Prince William County Juvenile Detention Center, which carried the theme, “It’s never too late to change the direction you’re going.”
Today, these young men and women are reaching their full potential. They are proud of themselves and rightly so. Some are already enrolled in college, others will graduate from high school this week, many with IB or AP diplomas, and with the $2500 scholarships provided through the BTO program, each college student and high school graduate will receive financial assistance to help them along the way. Students who are underclassmen in high school received a lap top computer in recognition of their achievements and are encouraged to continue their present course, with the hopes of being nominated to receive a scholarship next year.
The Beat the Odds® Banquet is not only a celebration of the youth, but also a celebration for those who helped them along the way. Each honoree, after receiving their scholarship, took the stage to share a few words. Andrea read a poem: “To the world I was just another statistic. I am here to prove them wrong…..Look at what I have done.” Katherine credits her foster mom, saying, “She pushed me harder and harder. There is a God who supports you, and people who support you, so keep at it.” Erin said, “The only failure is failure to try.” Many of the students honored at this year’s banquet are interested in pursuing a career in social work so they can help others similarly situated.
At the close of the evening, Justin Hargrove, chair of the BTO Committee, asked the honorees to do two things. 1. When you get up in the morning, continue moving forward. Go to school. Go to work. Continue on the path that we are celebrating today. 2. When you are able, give something back to help those less fortunate. For more information about this and other programs sponsored by the PWC Bar Association, visit them on-line at www.pwcba.org.