For over two years, the Sagamore Institute has partnered with One Heart, a Texas-based organization working to give incarcerated youth a second chance though mentorship, training, and community support.
For youth in prison, support is hard to come by. Nervous about their past, few people enter juvenile detention facilities to hear the stories, passions, and goals of incarcerated youth. As a result, young people leave prison delayed in education, lacking job skills and connections, and returning to the same rough home situations they left.
One Heart, a Texas non-profit organization dedicated to working with troubled young people, however, is working to change this. One Heart partners with national organizations such as Salvation Army, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Boys & Girls Clubs, as well as sports teams such as the Houston Texans and the Kansas City Chiefs. These partnerships focus on a two-pronged initiative, building life skills towards redirection and reentry. Both of these initiatives focus on long-term community development, such as mentorship programs, career development, and character building.
The One Heart Project began as an outgrowth of a rather unusual football game that occurred in Gainesville, Texas, in 2008. Gainesville State School, a juvenile maximum security detainment facility, offered football as an extracurricular for its best-behaved students. With no facilities of their own, the team played all their games away and never drew a crowd a situation that only highlighted their perceived loneliness and estrangement from the rest of society. That is, until the final game of the season, played at Faith Christian Academy. The One Heart film documents the story of how Faith Christian supported the students of Gainesville, cheering loudly, packing the stands, and creating banners, a spirit line, and more for the visiting team. Gainesville students describe how, for once, they felt like their past didn’t matter, their community supported them, and they could move forward. Evenings like these are so much more than a football game – they allow communities to affirm human value, redemption, and a future for those who feel it is unattainable.
The Sagamore Institute partners with One Heart in many capacities. Sagamore President Jay Hein authored a prominent book titled The Quiet Revolution, which was presented at the George W. Bush Presidential Library. The Quiet Revolution details the work done by President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush to support youth reintegration. In addition, President Hein and One Heart traveled to a juvenile center near Atlanta with former NFL coach Tony Dungy to speak about perseverance.
Beyond events such as these, the Sagamore Institute has supported One Heart in the development and launch of additional programs such as the Texas Mentoring Initiative. This One Heart initiative connects incarcerated youth with mentors who provide support and connection from the community outside prison. This mentorship continues upon release and provides additional support services such as housing, job skills, health care, legal assistance, counseling, and employment opportunities. With the support of the Sagamore Institute, similar programs are being developed in other areas, such as Kansas City. The relationships that mentors build with incarcerated youth allows the young people to integrate back into their community and move forward, creating a new kind of life each youth envisions for themselves.
The Sagamore Institute supports One Heart because it connects communities towards restorative justice, fosters healthy relationships that promote growth for all impacted, and redeems the future for youth who might otherwise miss their potential. The United States should strive for this kind of justice system, and Indiana is beginning this process. For more information about Indiana’s criminal justice reforms, see the 2015 Report the Sagamore Institute prepared in conjunction with the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute.