An academy for troubled teens in Walla Walla County recently beat out other Christian-ministry groups nationwide for a prestigious award and $25,000 grand prize.
Jubilee Leadership Academy in Prescott, about 35 miles east of Pasco, received the 2014 Hope Award for Effective Compassion. The award is given to small Christian organizations that fight poverty and provide spiritual help to those in need.
Jubilee is a boarding school for boys ages 13-18 with specially designed programs to help troubled youth and their families. It offers a fully accredited academic program, counseling and a vocational program to about 45 boys from across the country.
Voters picked the academy over three Christian organizations from three regions in the nation. More than 12,000 people voted in the contest, a record in the award’s nine-year history.
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Jubilee took home a $4,000 prize for winning the West region contest and another $25,000 for collecting the most votes in the finals.
Jubilee officials said they plan to use the money to help renovate old dorms on the 400-acre campus along the Snake River.
Some teens come to Jubilee through court orders; others are sent by their families. Officials said an average stay at the school — which also offers athletics, horsemanship and other programs — is about a year.
Everyone at Jubilee expressed shock when award officials announced the final vote, said Rick Griffin, executive director at the school. People at the school were thankful for the support from local communities and many others.
“It was rejuvenating to see the support from the community,” he said. “It really felt like people were believing in us.”
The Hope Award is handed out by the WORLD News Group and WORLD Magazine, a Christian publication based in North Carolina.
To be nominated, organizations must offer help to others in need that is spiritual, challenging and personal.
“From an administrative point of view, it was so nice that the award came with a $25,000 (prize),” Griffin said. “It couldn’t be better timing.”
Jubilee is the third youth-orientated ministry to win the award and the first since an organization from Des Moines, Iowa, took home the prize in 2010. The award was presented at a ceremony hosted by The Heritage Foundation, a Washington, D.C., think tank.
“Jubilee is a wonderful example of what makes America great,” former Republican Sen. Jim DeMint, president of the foundation, said in a news release. “Where others have given up, Jubilee has gone more than the extra mile to restore lives.”
Other nominees for this year’s award were from New Jersey, Michigan and Tennessee. An international winner from Central America did not qualify for the award because the organization is too large.
To learn more about Jubilee or how to apply, go to www.jlacademy.org.