New program helps teens facing charges get back on track

by: Mark Becker Updated:


CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A new program at Charlotte's Urban League is helping teenagers facing serious charges turn their lives around.

The four-week series of classes is voluntary for the teenagers who have been charged with breaking into homes or cars, and one of the leaders of the group is a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer.

"Once I get there, I start talking, and they see I'm just like them," said Officer Adrian Johnson, who grew up on Charlotte's west side.

Now he's a police officer, and an ideal mentor for the teenagers who are facing felony charges. The teens are at the program not because a judge has ordered them to be but because they want help.

"A lot of these guys have no other ways of getting that help that they need other than the police department and other resources," Johnson said.

"These are really some good young men who just have made some bad choices," said Johnny Worthy, a former minister who leads the classes.

The teenagers who finish the four week-course are not promised any leniency when they go back to court, but Worthy says they realize that the program offers an alternative to a lifetime in and out of prison.

"I think this is a much better approach because we've already starting to see some results. You get a person to understand that they don't have to make those choices," Worthy said.