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Juveniles art shown off at Cameron University

(Source KSWO) (Source KSWO)

LAWTON, OK (KSWO) -Coping through art...that's what dozens of young women currently serving time in the Oklahoma Juvenile system are doing.
And now, their work is getting recognized and shared at art shows.

And one of those shows was today at Cameron. It's part of a grant-funded art program between the O-J-A and Girl Scouts Of Western Oklahoma.
The program hopes to help young women cope with hardships in their life. It's also designed to give them new life skills and a voice. While some of them share the heartbreak of their experience and others speak of hope.

"I'm 17 years old and incarcerated, but even here I shine doing things I never imagined like graduating or getting clean." These words are just one example of the many juveniles who paint out of feeling regret and broken but dream of having a bright future.

"It's amazing to me as someone who would not be an artist to see the girls be able to open up and express themselves and put it all out there on a canvas," said Katelyn Gleason, Donor Relations Executive for Girl Scouts Of Western Oklahoma. "They're very courageous and strong to be able to do that. It's amazing to see their story."

Gleason is also the juveniles "4G" Troop leader. She meets with them throughout the year and says most of the participants who paint come from backgrounds of instability.

"Anything to help, express, or learn skills for coping, even anger management and stress relief and then just be able to raise awareness of the program that's going on at the facility," said Gleason.

Ashley Smith, a student at Cameron and President of the Criminal Justice Association says one day she dreams of working in law enforcement or working with juveniles in treatment centers. She wants to be an example and show the community through the paintings and notes like this one, that say "I am a changed young lady and chains do not define who I am."

"There's so many barriers that are built between law enforcement, the criminal justice side, the courts and the public, so I think something like this helps mend that and break down the barriers," said Smith.

Gleason hopes visitors who come to see their paintings take the time to understand how badly these girls want to change their lives for the better, like this girl who says "I will be the best I can be."

"I hope they get to see just how special each of these girls are. How hard they worked on this project. All that they put into it and just kind of gain a better understanding of where we are how we can improve and all the things that are going on with our juveniles in Oklahoma."

The art show travels all across western Oklahoma to gain audience and show off the work of these girls. If you missed it today, the gallery will be open again tomorrow from 11 a.m.- until 5:30 p.m. at the McMahon Centennial Complex at Cameron University.

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