At The University, students are taught to take what they have learned and apply it beyond the classroom. That is exactly what is happening in the juvenile delinquency class taught by Harry Dammer, Ph.D. In past years, the sociology / criminal justice course has focused on the nature of delinquency, theories regarding delinquency and preventive measures and treatment programs.
This year, the 14 students in the class are moving outside the classroom to work with local high school students from the United Neighborhood Center. Sophomore and criminal justice major Ryan Clarkson describes the center as “a proactive community approach to keeping kids off the street and keeping them out of trouble.”
He says, “They offer daycare and night programs to help kids stay off the streets, and they offer camps in the summer so kids aren’t just roaming around.” There are approximately 25-30 students from the Neighborhood Center involved in the program.
University students like Clarkson were each paired up with local high school students from the Center.
“We took them on a tour of campus to show them what a day in the life of a University of Scranton student is like, then we took them to a lecture (students were given the choice of three different lectures) so they got to see what a lecture was like, and then we took them to dinner. They loved that,” Clarkson said.
The idea for the program originated last spring. Dammer, head of the criminal justice department and professor of the juvenile delinquency class, says, “I was approached by Brian Conniff, the dean of arts and sciences, as well as Julie Schumacher Cohen who is in charge of community relations. They wanted faculty members, and hopefully students, to be more involved in the community. So then, I came up with the idea of how we could parlay the juvenile delinquency class with some community activity and this is what we came up with.”
The program does not end there, however; Dammer says “Later in the semester we are going to speak with them and learn about what it’s like to live in Scranton: what do they feel about crime issues and about their relationship with the police,” University students will use the findings of this interview to create a research paper.
“I think that based on today’s TV and news coverage, delinquents are always going to have a negative idea about police,” Clarkson said. “I think they are going to resent the police but we hope that the police can take action to soothe that resentment and make them realize they are there to help them; they are there to help them have a successful future and keep them out of trouble.”
“The goal of the class is to get real life information about the subject of juvenile delinquency and to compare the real life knowledge that they have gained from these young people with their class material,” says Dammer. The program promises to be an eye-opening learning experience for all those who are involved.