Bradley County Juvenile Court’s program has been in existence since 1997.
It was designed to aid “at-risk” children who are in the juvenile system either through Campus Court, Family Court or Juvenile Court.
The juveniles, who are referred to as cadets, go through a rigorous six-week program covering academics, physical fitness, teamwork and personal discipline.
Nancy Stanfield, senior youth service officer for Bradley County Juvenile Court, has been the director of the program since the first year.
She explained that mornings are spent doing physical exercise. The afternoons consist of three blocks: language arts, math, and life skills.
Not all cadets can handle the expectations this Academy has for these juveniles in order for them to graduate.
This year the Academy began with 67 cadets and graduated 32. Some cadets refuse to follow the rules or they break the rules. Those who do not graduate are petitioned back to court and are assigned 200 hours of community service in order to fulfill this requirement.
Judge Dan Swafford has been monumental in continuing this program each summer.
He has always been a positive advocate of the L.E.A.F. Academy.
“This program is a success because of the hard work that Nancy, the officers, the teachers and all those who play a role put into it,” states Swafford.
Judge Swafford also credits the many partners that work together to make the L.E.A.F. Academy success.
These include, but are not limited to Juvenile Court staff, Bradley County Sheriff’s Office, Cleveland City Police Department, Bradley County Schools, Cleveland City Schools, Lee University and Camelot.
Stanfield also appreciates what Judge Swafford has done for this program.
“If it wasn’t for the support of Judge Swafford, this Academy would not be celebrating its 21st class.”
Judge Swafford and Juvenile Director Terry Gallaher have made sure that we are ready to go and have what we need to make this program a success.
“It’s not about me. It’s about the kids,” states Stanfield. “We want the cadets to see their potential and strive to achieve what is deep down inside of them.”
One positive thing Stanfield talks about is that these cadets basically get a second chance.
She states, “When these kids graduate from the L.E.A.F. Academy, the slate is basically wiped clean.”
This is why graduation day means so much. One particular moment stuck out to CPD Officer Brian Montgomery at graduation when one of the cadets looked at him and said, “Thanks for what you taught me Officer Montgomery,” as he went through the line shaking hands. Just that one simple statement makes it worth each and every day spent over the last six weeks.
Each year, the program is given a “theme.” This year’s theme was “It Takes Heart.”There are 32 cadets that gave their total heart to this program this summer. They are now proud members of the 21st graduating class of the L.E.A.F. Academy.