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November 9--  The non-profit Community Project Hope gives young people in trouble with the law a second chance by advocating for them in the courts of the Middle Judicial Circuit.

WILSONAt its annual appreciation dinner in Vidalia, founder Wilson Johnson thanked citizens for their support, "We're unfunded and we have to show the people we are doing something good for the community. We help young men who got in trouble and the courts gave them the opportunity to live their lives free.  They have to go to church, get a job and, if they haven't graduated from high school, we steer them in the direction to get a GED and perhaps go to college.  I just want to thank all the people who are here tonight for their support," he said.

SHELLYAmong the speakers, Shelly Smith, CEO of the Southeastern Early College and Career Academy in Vidalia, talked about a program called "The Great Promise Partnership" which tries to keep people out of the court system.

"Wilson Johnson catches the kids after they've already dropped out, they are about to be adjudicated and may face time in jail or in prison.  Every student we can keep in school and get employed is one more kid that Wilson Johnson's program does not have to find in the court system," she said.

Assistant District Attorney Tripp Fitzner says Community Project Hope helps judges offer alternatives to prison, "I think our goal doesn't always have to be punitive. Sometimes you can give somebody and helping hand and that makes the community a better place.  We're very happy at the District Attorney's office to support the program and look forward to doing so in the future."