Boness, a graduate of Brown University and the University of Georgia School of Law, joined the Fanning Institute in 2012 and quickly became a part of Athens Peer Court. The organization, , allows local students to meet weekly to participate in the judiciary proceedings of first-time student offenders.
“We train students in all general positions of courtroom proceedings, and she was nervous about being a judge,” said Boness. After guidance from Boness, the student volunteered for the position again at the next meeting. “It’s great to see students excited about it.”
The program has been effective in several communities across the country and results have been generally positive.
“The goal is to reduce recidivism in first time offenders, while encouraging self respect and empowerment in the student volunteers,” Boness said.
To see the success of the program, look at the students involved to see the results. Several commented on both Boness and the programs impact on their lives.
Troy Burgess, a student in the Athens-Clark County area praised her ability to “take control” when the sessions get out of hand. Boness agrees with the policy of adults not speaking during the sessions to allows students to acknowledge and express issues in individual cases without outside pressures.
At the time of the interview, Boness and Athens Peer Court were preparing to be honored at City Hall for their receipt of the 2013 Program of the Year award from the Georgia Council Court Administrators. Boness was timid and polite in receiving her award. However, the students involved were excited.
“It’s important to the community”, said Andrew Porter, as the students followed Boness into City Hall to receive their award.
With regards to her personal satisfaction with her own efforts, she believes that the students are the real success. “I just try to respect and empower the students to make their own decisions regarding their peers. We want to instill leadership and public speaking skills so that first-time offenders will be willing to be introspective.”
Boness added that the success of students after they graduate high school is what brings her the most pride.
“We have had students who have used our program on their résumé’s that have been accepted to Harvard, Mercer and even our own UGA,” she said.
For the Athens community, embracing the trials and tribulations of its youngest citizens is a critical issue that Boness has embraced as her own. Her dedication is realized in the success of her students, the success of her program for which is being awarded, and her own drive to better the students in the Athens-Clark County community.
Emily Boness - Director of Athens Peer Court
Andrew Cronon - Student of Cedar Shoals High School
Andrew Porter - Student of Cedar Shoals High School
Henry Sampson - Student of Clark Central High School