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University visit is a MAGICal experience for teens

Posted 5/2/2007

They were first-time juvenile offenders who have turned their lives around. Charles Bowen of Tonopah, Nev., and Katherine Duffy of Lovelock, Nev., were named the 2006 outstanding graduates of Project MAGIC (Making a Group and Individual Commitment). This University of Nevada Cooperative Extension educational program helps first-time juvenile offenders stay out of the juvenile justice system and learn important life-skills. These two high school students, along with family members and friends, toured the University of Nevada, Reno campus Wednesday and met with President Milt Glick.

Project MAGIC was started by Marilyn Smith and Bill Evans, Cooperative Extension youth development specialists, and has been nationally recognized over the past several years. In October 2006, the Annie E. Casey Foundation named Project MAGIC one of five recipients nationwide for its $15,000 award to outstanding 4-H Youth Development Programs that improve outcomes for rural, disadvantaged families by fostering the social networks, economic opportunities and family support services.

While Smith and Evans have received many awards on behalf of the program, perhaps the greatest reward is seeing young people take responsibility and better their lives. Half of Nevada's counties now offer Project MAGIC. More than 3,000 juvenile offenders have graduated from the program and have not reentered the justice system, saving taxpayers an estimated $5.4 million in incarceration costs.

The after-school program is conducted three times a week over an eight-week period. The youth learn communication, team building, problem solving, decision making, self responsibility, conflict resolution, aspiration building and community leadership. Corresponding sessions for their parents cover these same skills.

Bowen and Duffy were nominated as outstanding graduates by the Project MAGIC leaders in their communities. In both cases, their program leaders noted they successfully completed the program and are now serving as role models for other teens in their communities. During their visit to the University, they were challenged by Glick and others to consider a new goal after graduation from high school: obtaining a college degree.

For more information on Project MAGIC, contact Marilyn Smith at 775-738-7291.

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