C. Barrington "Barry" Hart knows what it's like to be a troubled kid. Growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y., he was kicked out of high school and was told he couldn't go to any other school in the state.
"I quickly realized in Brooklyn that, if I didn’t do something with my life differently than the way I was headed, I was probably going to get shot," said Hart.
Hart soon joined the airforce to turn his life around. He got his GED and retired from the military after 20 years, and he has three degrees: an associate's degree in information systems, a bachelor's degree in human resources and a master's degree in counseling.
He also became a nationally certified rehabilitation counselor, where he worked for the state and federal government to counsel people of all ages. When he became overworked at a Virginia medical center in 2004, though, he resigned with no plan in mind.
But he quickly knew what he wanted to do, and it wasn't too far off from what he was used to.
"Around 85 percent of the people I spoke to would tell me, 'I wish somebody would have spoken to me when I was a teenager because it would have made such a difference in my life,'" said Hart.
In 2005, Hart started Turn Around Coaching in Gwinnett County. The non-profit organization, which is comprised of 42 volunteers to date, helps ages 10 to 20 years old with problems ranging from sucking thumbs to shoplifting to gangs.
Hart decided he wasn't going to counsel or mentor these kids, though; instead, they focus on life coaching for the future.
"Counseling involves the past and what they've done; we can't change anything anyone's done," he said. "I don't think any kid would like me to tell them, 'Remember last year when you stole that stuff at Macy's?' So we worry about where their heart is today and what direction they want to go tomorrow."
With life coaching, Hart meets with every child and parent interested in the program before he sets them up with one of the volunteers, who range from being doctors to accountants to warehouse managers. Hart has to make sure the kids acknowledge what wrong they've done and what they need to improve before they go forward with a coach.
Currently, Hart is concentrating on helping African refugees in Clarkston, but he's done much work throughout Norcross. He's helped the kids at Norcross' and , where he also serves in the Usher Ministry.
The coaching process costs $25 takes an average of 12 weeks, where they talk about values, take quizzes, and answer questions on what type of choices they should be making.
And that's the main way the volunteers help the children: They listen.
"All it takes is for someone to care, for somebody to show them, because a majority of the kids, they think, 'I can't talk to anyone,' and that's the problem," said Hart. "Once they feel this way, then they do whatever it is they want."
The coaches gain the students' trust through listening and being on time for their coaching meetings, and because of this trust, the kids are more likely to want to impress them and therefore graduate from the program. Hart said he gets many calls from students he's coached in the past just to catch up and how well they're doing.
One example is when he was coaching kids at the Boys and Girls Club in Norcross. A 17-year-old gang member told Hart that he wanted to leave the gang and he needed help.
They recognized the fact that simply leaving the gang could cause more issues, so they talked about moving in with his father in New Jersey, even though his mother had full custody. His mom decided to give custody to the father, and Hart helped drive the teenager to the airport to live with his dad.
Six months later, Hart said, he gets a letter from the young man with a picture of himself and the words "your future coach" on the back." He also spoke with the teenager on the phone, who told him that he's getting his GED and has a job.
Hart recalled that it's a very similar experience with his own sargeant when he was in the air force. His sargeant was the one who made him get out of his funk and turn his life around.
"When someone affects your life and really shows you that they care, you remember them forever," said Hart.
Turn Around Coaching is a Duluth-based business located at 301 Howell Lane that serves that Gwinnett and DeKalb counties. For more information, go to turnaroundcoaching.org or contact C. Barrington Hart at email@example.com or 770-277-3804.