RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. (KTHV) - A Russellville circuit judge is helping juvenile offenders positively change their lives around. In a society where many people have given up on youth who may have gotten into trouble with the law, there is one person who refuses to let that cycle go on.
"It's what we're called to do. We are called to reach these young people in whatever way possible," said Judge Ken Coker.
Coker is a Russellville judge for the fifth judicial circuit who hears the stories of troubled juveniles in his courtroom on a daily basis. A few years ago he had a vision of a community effort to help these juveniles change their lives around. Sitting feet away from the courthouse is the "Garden of Hope."
"It's much more than a garden," offered Coker.
Youth between the ages of 14 to 18 who have been put on probation and required to complete community service were assigned the task of growing fresh fruits and vegetables.
"We've got purple oil peas here," Frank Russenberger showed THV. Russenberger is the Pope County Master Gardener and teaches these youth everything they need to know about growing crops. "They are learning that you come out and you work, you sweat. I mean these were bare dirt boxes when they got started on it."
Just like the crops they are planting, these young people are blooming and growing into something many thought they would never be.
"They've got very, very positive attitudes when they're out in the garden, and that's something that I don't usually see in my office," said Jaime Davis, juvenile probation officer. Davis added that spending valuable time with them is what makes the difference. "They're getting to be with some adult mentors and just showing them that you care."