Nonprofit keeps kids on track

Students from the Four Corners Group learned about entrepreneurship during a visit to Atlanta Tech Village.

Credit: contr

Credit: contr

Students from the Four Corners Group learned about entrepreneurship during a visit to Atlanta Tech Village.

In 2007, William Johnson launched a nonprofit based around life skills and motivational speaking. As the years went on, the Kennesaw resident saw a rise in requests to bring those concepts to students.

“I remember someone from the DeKalb county schools asking me to meet with one of the principals who had 200 to 300 kids who needed intervention,” he said. “Then I was asked to speak in Gwinnett. My heart was crushed by those students. So I started a pilot to mentor kids around character development, and within 10 years, I was doing it in seven schools.”

Today, the Cobb-based Four Corners Group focuses on youngsters in the juvenile system, with the majority coming from alternative schools. Johnson works with them in a 10-week program that includes monthly events, day trips and sessions with mentors and coaches. A Toastmaster’s chapter helps students build poise and presentation skills. Other objectives include workforce readiness, leadership development, integrity and self-control.

“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

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