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School For Delinquent Youth To Cut Equestrian Program After 40 Years

Courtesy of George Junior Republic

A Mercer County school for delinquent youths will cut costs this summer by eliminating its 40-year-old equestrian program to add other activities.

The equestrian program at George Junior Republic School in Grove City consists of 16 horses and a staff with an operating cost of more than $250,000 annually. 

“A delinquent youth spends an average of nine months at the school,” said the school’s CEO, Rick Losasso. “When you think about the actual utilization and the costs associated to it, that goes into our decision-making process.”

According to the school’s website, the equestrian program used horses as a therapeutic tool to engage at-risk youths with behavioral problems. 

“There’s about four months out of the year that the facility is not really operational, other than the kids caring for the animals,” said Losasso.    

Funding comes from the 50-plus counties that send juveniles to the school. 

“In Pennsylvania, for example, we went seven consecutive years without an increase from a Pennsylvania county for the services we provide,” said Losasso. 

Every year, school officials evaluate programs, staffing patterns and different opportunities for the 500 students at the Grove City campus. The need for additional physical activities was a contributing factor when deciding to cancel the school’s equestrian program. 

“We just keep changing,” said the school’s program director Pat Devine. “I mean, at one point we had a bowling alley. There’s certainly a bunch of kids that enjoy horseback and there’s certainly a bunch that didn’t.”  

While the horse stables will no longer be in use, the school will be opening a new recreation center this summer. 

“We raised that money through private sources,” Losasso said. “We’re actually increasing opportunities for kids.” 

Students were informed the equestrian program would be ending through the school’s newsletter. Twelve of the horses have already found new homes, as the equestrian program nears its end this summer.