Ex-offenders have powerful stories to tell and Jimmy Young, ’11, helps tell them.

Young started working with ex-offenders at the Richmond-based nonprofit Boaz & Ruth when he joined the University of Richmond's Bonner Scholars Program his sophomore year. Boaz & Ruth focuses on helping ex-offenders make a successful transition from prison back into society by providing them with job- and life-skills training.

“The redemption aspect of the Boaz & Ruth mission really spoke to me,” Young said. “I met people who wanted and needed a second chance.” And he met people with great stories to tell.

A political science and leadership studies double major and journalism minor, Young serves as the online editor of the Collegian. His journalism background led him to undertake public-relations projects for Boaz & Ruth, such as writing the annual report and newsletter articles, improving the organization’s social-media presence, and even creating a photo essay of Boaz & Ruth for his photojournalism class.

“Boaz & Ruth relies on anecdotes and stories to promote its cause. If you hear a story, you connect with that person on a much deeper level than you would if you just read about numbers and statistics,” Young said.

Young cited the story of Boaz & Ruth participant Duryea Holley as one example of the work the nonprofit does to repair lives and reduce recidivism. “I’ve seen Duryea change in the year she’s participated in the program,” Young said. “Her success and the successes of many others prove the program works.”

Holley agreed. “I was a slave to crack cocaine for 20 years and spent my life in and out of prisons and institutions,” she said. “I hurt a lot of people and lost my kids, my family, and my self-respect. The last time I went to prison I got on my knees and prayed. I wanted to change so bad. I was tired of my life.”

Boaz & Ruth came as the answer to Holley’s prayer. “Anything Boaz & Ruth suggested to me to do, I did,” she said. She completed her GED; got a job, an apartment, and a driver’s license; and reconciled with her mother and her two daughters. She shares her story with inmates at the Richmond City Jail. “I let people know that they can change,” she said.

Like Holley, Young has become an advocate for Boaz & Ruth. This year he serves as a member of the Build It Action Group, the student leadership team charged with recruiting volunteers to serve at Boaz & Ruth and five other community organizations affiliated with Build It, the University’s largest civic-engagement initiative.

“My major goal as an Action Group member is to build cohesion between the Bonner Scholars, the Build It volunteers, and the Boaz & Ruth participants and staff,” Young said. “Boaz & Ruth deals with deeply entrenched problems that require people with diverse talents to work together to address and, hopefully, solve.”

For the past two summers, Young has fulfilled his Bonner summer-service requirement by putting his organizational and journalistic talent to work for More Than Words Bookstore, a Boston-area nonprofit dedicated to empowering at-risk youth to take charge of their own lives by taking charge of a business — in this case, a bookstore. The nonprofit’s social entrepreneurial model resembles that of Boaz & Ruth.

Young hopes to find a job after graduation where he can continue to use his journalistic skills to promote the social-justice missions of nonprofits. After all, they have great stories to tell.