When correctional prison officer Carl Cannon noticed an increasing number of inmates were adolescents, he decided the most effective way to combat that trend would be to give them hope.
Cannon initiated a program where high school students from disadvantaged families in Peoria could be mentored by a Bradley undergraduate student, a program known as BU C.H.O.I.C.E.S. which stands for Can’t Have Our Individual Choices Endangering Society.
The program allows a high school student 10 hours of free tutoring on campus, as well as incentives such as a free refurbished computer when they complete the program.
They also attend various programs in the summer and a one-time overnight leadership camp at the beginning of the school year.
“The goal of the program is to provide these kids with the opportunity to get more out of their education, as well as teach them that the road to success in life is through education,” said C.H.O.I.C.E.S. co-president Joshua Newman.
The student members of the executive board said they joined C.H.O.I.C.E.S. out of a will and a desire to help.
“I joined C.H.O.I.C.E.S. my freshman year as a tutor because I wanted to volunteer for something,” said senior marketing major Allison Sutton.
After participating in the program for the past three years, she is now a member of the executive board.
“I helped in planning the camp this year, and am making sure the rest of the tutoring program this semester runs smoothly,” she said.
Junior actuarial science major Nicole Zatt said she wanted to find a way to volunteer despite her busy schedule.
“I wanted to join an organization that helped people,” she said. “The tutors of C.H.O.I.C.E.S. make a significant difference in high school freshmen’s lives with very little time commitment.”
Senior elementary education major and co-president Jennifer Dunmore said the program made a difference not only in the lives of the disadvantaged students, but in her’s as well.
“My favorite part of BU C.H.O.I.C.E.S. was the overnight camp,” she said. “We did an activity where we gave each kid an apple, asked them to talk about something that made them angry and throw the apple at a tarp. The stories were so heartbreaking, but it really showed the strength of these kids. It was very powerful.”
For the students currently on the executive board, their goal for this year is to recruit more members to continue mentoring and help the group expand outside of Peoria.
“We want to promote the group,” Dunmore said. “Involvement in C.H.O.I.C.E.S. is a great way to give back to the community, and we are hoping to get our name out there.”
Students who are mentored come directly on campus for their tutoring sessions.
“Bringing them to the campus allows these students to get interested in and excited about college,” Dunmore said.
The C.H.O.I.C.E.S. members said they are also excited about the upcoming events for this year. In addition to the leadership camp at the beginning of the school year, Zatt said the group is planning a dinner and a Bradley basketball game for the tutors and the students.
For the C.H.O.I.C.E.S. members, the program is more than just a tutoring opportunity.
“Through this experience, these high school students were able to learn that they are not alone in their troubles,” Newman said. “There is always someone eager to help.”
For more information or to join C.H.O.I.C.E.S. send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the Web site at http://www.choicesyop.org.