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State Honoree

Shelarese Ruffin

Georgia

developed an intervention program that enables middle and high school students to confront and overcome drug and other discipline problems instead of being expelled from school. While working at a local drug prevention agency, Shelarese started reading about high school drop-outs and the high rate of student expulsion, and decided she wanted to do something that would help give troubled kids a second chance. As she researched the issue and discussed it with others, she began to formulate a concept for a program that would appeal to at-risk teens and effectively address their problems, through both individual attention and group interaction. She and a committee of other interested people drafted a business plan and successfully applied for a $50,000 development grant. The group then sought the advice of experts, psychologists and teachers who helped create a series of training modules. Nearly 3,000 students participated in the program during the first two years, and 80 percent of them have successfully remained in school. The program has since expanded to other states, and due to its growing time demands, Shelarese has turned over most of the administration to a local agency. “The class clown or the bully, or even the kid that does drugs...they have needs, too,” Shelarese said. “Often their actions are a cry for help and there’s no one there to hear the call.”