"The hardest part for me was overcoming the fear that I could make a change in people in trouble with the law."
Retired school guidance counselor Gearline Young, 68, of Fairfax, Va., used her skill and training in fine arts to connect other women in the community with teens in the Girls Probation House, Fairfax County's long-term treatment facility for girls placed there by judicial disposition to reduce chronic acting-out delinquent behavior.
What kind of philanthropic or volunteer work did/do you do?
Gearline: Through fine arts and crafts, I help non-profit groups that are educational or charitable to meet the needs of adolescent girls whose behavior has brought them into the purview of the courts.
What is the name and location of the organization?
Gearline: I have encouraged women of the Educational and Charitable Foundation of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Lambda Kappa Omega Chapter, to adopt the Girls Probation House in Fairfax County, Virginia.
Tell us about the project, especially who benefited from this work.
Gearline: We plan arts and craft projects that require several women to work with each girl in order to build self-esteem and worth. The projects are designed to assist the girls in helping others. Around Motherís Day, they designed and painted treasure boxes that displayed their photographs. Lessons about design were learned with the help of the women. The women provided refreshments in a casual atmosphere.
What inspired you to get involved?
Gearline: I believe in supporting those in trouble in order to make them successful citizens. Art is an aesthetic method used to encourage peace of mind. If the art can be used to assist people to give to others, I believe that self-worth is enhanced.
How did you first get involved? Give us some details.
Gearline: I am a retired school guidance counselor with a minor in fine arts. Since retirement, I have been involved with mobile art shows for non-profit groups. I have shown my art in competitive shows throughout the USA, but I changed my direction to helping troubled youth. I believe that I have a calling in this area.
What is/was the best thing about your experience?
Gearline: The best thing about this is seeing smiles and the interaction between the women. It shows love.
What is/was the hardest part?
Gearline: The hardest part for me was overcoming the fear that I could make a change in people in trouble with the law.
What was the biggest surprise?
Gearline: The advanced art that was completed in a short period of time really surprised me.
What new things have you learned as a result of your experience and how have you changed as a result?
Gearline: I can plan an activity in a short period of time for people whom I do not know.
What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of getting involved in philanthropy or volunteering?
Gearline: Find two or three people who believe that it can be done, then share in the planning. Do not try something alone if you want success.
The September 2003 issue of the Journal of Correctional Education published an article that evaluates an arts program for juvenile offenders. To read the article, click here.
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