“I want them to make those things part of their brand,” he said. “I want them to see that they can take being abused, molested or not having a dad and turn that into something positive.”
In the first part of the program, students perform service projects, explore careers and learn about healthy relationships and financial literacy. Sessions are held at locations in Marietta and Austell, as well as juvenile detention centers and a space provided by Walton Communities at Ridenour in Kennesaw.
While some students are court-ordered to participate, Johnson also works with those identified by the schools as at-risk.
“At one school, we have 60 who said they might drop out,” he said. “Others join us when they get out of detention; for them, our goal is to reduce recidivism.”
The organization partners with local businesses to highlight job options. Chick-fil-A has helped students find jobs and mentors, while start-ups at Atlanta Tech Village have introduced them to entrepreneurship. Program alumni also return as mentors and coaches and to share their stories.
“One of our first students was in the juvenile system and had repeated the same grade multiple times,” said Johnson. “But since he finished, he has gotten a GED, is working and bought his own car. To us, when someone doesn’t stay in the pipeline, that’s a great success story.
In the last two semesters, Johnson has worked with 160 students from 21 schools and launched a program for their parents. His next goal is to expand into Atlanta.
Information about Four Corners is online at fourcornersgroup.net.
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