Joplin, MO (SNS) – Everyone deserves a second chance, especially children and teens who aren’t getting a shot at an education that could help them turn their lives around.

“We had children walking the streets of St. Louis lawfully, who were expelled from school without any opportunity to return,” says Judge Jimmie Edwards. “It doesn’t make any sense to have 12- or 13-year-old children out of school and expect them to turn out to be good citizens or, alternatively, not wind up in prison.

Edwards, a St. Louis Circuit Court judge, opened the Innovative Concept Academy in 2009 to change the lives of teens facing a life of cycling through courtrooms and jail cells and to help them realize their potential.

The Teaching and Learning Committee at Missouri Southern State University has invited Judge Edwards to speak at 2 p.m. Friday, Feb. 27, in Webster Hall’s  Corley Auditorium. His presentation will be on “Implicit Bias and At-Risk Students.”

“I’ve been a judge for 23 years and spent most of my judicial career dealing with adult offenders,” says Edwards. “Like most citizens, I read the newspapers and could see where the struggles are. There were opportunities I thought we were missing in our area, so I assigned myself to the juvenile and family courts.”

Creating the Innovative Concept Academy — which is located near downtown St. Louis — to create opportunities for children not being served by the public school system.

“It’s not a charter school or a public school per se, but it allows children to return to a structured educational environment,” says Edwards.

Volunteers work with students on literacy and other academic skills, and life skills such as cooking are an important focus. The YMCA is involved, and the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department even runs a boxing program, says Edwards.

“We currently have about 300 students,” he says. “I’m hopeful for a day when we’re not needed, but until then I think it’s important that we equalize life chances for all children.”

During his presentation at Missouri Southern, Edwards will discuss how students’ backgrounds and home lives can affect their learning potential and how educators can approach those issues.

The Teaching and Learning Committee has invited all faculty, staff and students to attend, as we’ll as teachers from Joplin High School, College Heights Christian School and Thomas Jefferson Independent Day School. The public is also welcome to attend Edwards’ presentation.