Court diversion programs learn about outdoors education

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(Host) Court Diversion leaders hope to get young people involved in nature-as a way to keep them out of trouble.

The Vermont Association of Court Diversion Programs meet with a California-based group called Hooked on Nature with the focus on how outdoor programs can help offenders get their lives back on track.

Rutland County Court Diversion executive director Ric Bijorn helped bring the group together.

Bijorn says he’s convinced that nature programming can work for offenders and wants to bring that message to other counties.

(Bijorn) "I also thinking working with first time offenders, it’s the three things, it’s nature, leadership and community aspects of it. When you bring those three concepts together, you can have a major affect on working with first time offenders, it can also have an effect on the people that work with the offenders, lowering their stress level in order to not get burnt out."

(Host) Lamoille County Court Diversion began holding outdoors program four years ago. They felt a classroom setting wasn’t the best way to help kids make the best decisions. They’ve adopted a program that offers at-risk kids mountain biking and self-esteem building. And Development Specialist Mark Scott says they’ve seen results.

(Scott) "Sprockids has been around for four years, so we can actually see a lot of changes in those guys and girls We’ve had quite a few people who’ve started at 8 and now come back and help lead the program, or have just taken on leadership roles and really been invested in making mountain biking a part of their life."

(Host) Hooked on Nature’s Executive Director Avery Cleary says the model Vermont is looking at is unique. 

(Cleary) "This is really a groundbreaking program here with the court diversion because we haven’t heard of any other place in the country where anyone is focusing in a statewide way, how would you look at best practices to get kids connected to nature and that’s what they’re doing here."

(Host) New Hampshire held a similar event yesterday called "No Child Left Inside" to help encourage kids to get outside.

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