From 1890-1895, jewelry case maker and social visionary William R. George first developed the concept of a fresh start program for delinquent and abandoned children through his exposure to the “fresh air camps” movement, which gave tough boys and girls from the New York City slums a summer country living experience. George observed that while the fresh air camps were a good idea on paper, they did not improve the attitudes and behavior of these young petty criminals. He came to believe “that all boys and girls would derive inestimable benefit from spending a few years in a village-type setting in which the government was conducted by themselves, and where the conditions — economic, civic, and social — were the same as an ordinary village. His chief interest was to develop the character of young people. He theorized that when a citizen had property earned by himself, he would want laws to protect it … Property was looked upon as the basis of responsible citizenship, available to those with industry and initiative, qualities to be learned in a free enterprise and competitive economy. Each boy and girl was put into conditions of actual life and allowed to work out his own destiny.” (A History of the George Junior Republic in Pennsylvania by Allene H. Masterson, 1970)
In other words, youth would be taught the principles of self-government, self-control, and responsible behavior by giving them the power and duties of citizenship in a miniature state. George called these life-changing institutions “junior republics.”
The creation of George Junior Republic of Western Pennsylvania was the result of the serendipitous coming together of two groups of men on a mission. In March 1907, George was visiting the Thatcher School in Ojai, CA, where he met Dr. Morgan Barnes, a teacher at the school. The two men had an opportunity to discuss the junior republic movement and Barnes, a Mercer County native, became an enthusiastic believer in George’s work and recommended that George consider Grove City as a location for his next republic.
Over the past 110-year history, George Junior Republic has expanded to include a comprehensive organizational structure. The operations and business of George Junior Republic are conducted through six corporations, all of which are 501(c)(3) designated charities.
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