Troubled kids in Orangeburg to turn a new lease on life

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Two hundred and fifty kids from seven states are in Orangeburg this week trying to earn a second chance at life.

They are competing in sports as a way to learn teamwork and responsibility.

Bennettsville native Courtney Jennings is in 11th grade and he already has a lengthy history of run-ins with the law

"I've got a gun charge, a burglary charge, violating probation and assault on an officer," said Jennings.

He is not alone. AMI Kids, an organization based in Tampa, works with kids like Courtney to provide positive experiences and discipline through athletics and academics.

This week, South Carolina State University is hosting the program's national event. Students will compete in Olympic events like track and field and swimming

"I'm learning how to control my anger and how to make the right decisions," said student Shannon Baker.

"It really gives kids an opportunity to do something positive and create new ideas for themselves," said AMI Kids CEO O.B. Stander.

The kids have a chance to earn medals in each event, while learning teamwork at the same time.

"There are tremendous life lessons for preparing for events. A lot of these kids are competing in events that are not natural to them," said Stander.

For kids like Courtney, athletics may be a way to escape from a life of trouble.

"Sports are important to me. If I don't have sports I'm going to be on the streets selling drugs or beating up people," said Jenkins.