Washtenaw County, MI – Earlier this month, Washtenaw County Commissioners voted to approve the acceptance of a grant from The Auto Club Group Foundation (AAA) to launch a new initiative to help youth from under-resourced communities afford Drivers Education classes. This program will be operated through the Sheriff’s Office and hopes to reduce negative criminal justice system involvement for youth in our county.
“When I was growing up, my parents did not have a lot of extra money that could have gone to Drivers Education, but it was provided free by the schools. My driver’s license enabled me to have the opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities and get a job. The WCSO Driver’s Ed program is intended to help provide those opportunities to our young people who otherwise might not be able to access them,” said Sheriff Jerry Clayton. “It will also provide positive, mentoring relationships with WCSO Deputies, encourage better school attendance and grades, and is a root cause approach to reduce unnecessary and potentially negative contacts with the Criminal Legal System.”
In the Board of Commissioners cover memo, which offers more details on the background, operations, and intended impact of this program, it recognizes that youth from these communities often are required to drive to school or to work to support their family, regardless of whether they can afford Drivers Education classes. This means they end up driving without a license or proper training that can result in tickets they cannot pay, which can lead to more court and police interaction.
“Reducing criminal justice system involvement for our young people is so important,” said Justin Hodge, Chair of Working Session and Commissioner for District 5. “We as a Board continue to be grateful to have colleagues in the departments and offices of Washtenaw County Government who share these values and are always looking for new ways to support vulnerable members of our community.”
This grant will fund the program to help as many as 75 students from lower-income families from under-resourced communities cover the cost of drivers education classes, which can cost approximately $600. By addressing this one-time need and eliminating a major entryway to the criminal justice system, this program has the potential to have a long-lasting positive impact in Washtenaw County.