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Lyons launches statewide program for juveniles

By Bonnie Zhang

Growing up in Wilmington, Delaware, a city with one of the highest murder rates in the country, Jane Lyons has been exposed to crime since her early teens and seen the effects of gang violence firsthand.

While many may have shied away from the consequences of crime, Jane decided to act.

With her brother, Patrick Lyons, then eighth grader Jane started a non-profit called Youth Overcoming Obstacles (YOO) to give incarcerated teens a second chance.

“Second chances are necessary,” Jane said. “You can’t automatically assume that someone who makes one mistake is an awful person.”

Jane started YOO after a childhood friend was institutionalized at the Ferris School for Boys, a detention center.

“He didn’t have a support system at home. He wanted to pursue football. He didn’t have the money to buy cleats,” Jane said.

Through the detention center, Jane was able to set up a fund to raise money for her friend.

But, what began as a small fund to help one boy soon blossomed into a statewide program that aids teens in escaping inner-city violence by organizing jobs and internships, teaching them financial literacy or relocating them and their families.

Relocation has proved to be an expensive charity to fundraise for; however, it has not been the most difficult aspect of rehabilitation because not all who receive help carry it gracefully.

“We had gotten a job [for this younger boy] at a homeless shelter. It was a positive environment for him, there were a lot of people in his corner, who wanted him to do better. He would just show up late, leave early, get not very good reviews on his work, be slacking off and, unfortunately, he was fired from that job. Trying to teach them the importance of showing up every day, being dedicated to your work,” Jane said.

As Jane travels away from home for college, she hopes to bring YOO with her.

“I’m hoping every state I move to, it will happen. I want this to continue and expand nationwide,” Jane said.