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TJJD facilities mark National Day of Prayer with several events

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Gainesville Basketball Player Makes All-State

Gainesville staff are proud to announce that one of their school’s basketball players, KA, was named to the All-State Basketball, Second Team, in the TAPPS (Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools) League.

This same student was named Offensive Player of the Year in the district, where he averaged 18 points per game, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals. He led the Tornadoes Basketball Team to a 13-6 record overall, and 7-3 in the district.

The Tornadoes tied for second place in the district during the regular season. But they lost in the state playoffs to Colleyville Christian, the #1 ranked team in the state.

KA has been “a great example in both football and basketball this year,” said Henry Thomas, Athletic Director and Basketball Coach for Gainesville’s Lone Star High School North.

This student athlete also excelled off the court, making the A/B honor roll multiple times and completing his GED (high school equivalency diploma) in  October 2017, Coach Thomas sa…

Mad Hatter Throws Un-birthday Party in Mart

The Cheshire Cat and the Mad Hatter threw a “Very Merry Un-Birthday Party” on April 13 at the McLennan County State Juvenile Correctional Facility (MCSJCF) in Mart.

Forty-four youth and 111 family members attended the “Alice in Wonderland”-themed party and spent the afternoon playing party games together. Volunteers with the McLennan County Community Resource Council for Troubled Texas Youth served hotdogs, chips, cupcakes, and punch/water to the youth and their families.

Families were permitted to bring an “un-birthday” present to their child during this event, in lieu of a gift for their child’s actual birthdate, which is not allowed.
The gifts had to be one of four designated items - a pair of socks, a pair of house shoes, an age-appropriate book or a pair of pajamas, in black, white or gray or some combination of that.
All gifts were inspected as family members entered the facility, and turned over to staff.

Mary Garrity, family liaison, organized the Family Day event.

Ayres House Youth Learn Cowboy Skills

Youth from Ayres Halfway House in San Antonio participated in an exciting event on April 12. Pam Colaw, the Director of Hidden Springs Youth Ranch, brought two of her cowboy ropers to teach our youth how to rope steers.

The cowboys spent the evening teaching the techniques of roping. Our youth really enjoyed this event and have been invited to tour her ranch and ride the 10 therapy horses there sometime soon.

Gainesville Staff Help Solve Mysteries While Raising Money for Local Food Bank

Several staff members from Gainesville State School participated in murder mystery theater event benefiting the Visto food bank last week.

The food bank assists more than 17,000 people in crisis in the Cooke County area and has raised more than $140,000 for these families.

The Visto (Volunteers In Service to Others) Vintage Murder Mystery posited a crime in which “Barry Underwood” met his doom somewhere in wine country. The mission: Sniff out the perpetrator.

Team Gainesville was on it, interviewing Underwood’s fiancé “Tina Bubbles,” his cousin “Ralph Rottingrape,” beauty queen “Marilyn Merlot,” Hollywood movie star, “Hedy Shablee,” owner of a neighboring vineyard and “Papa Vino,” who helped develop the Underwood Wine Estates. There’s more, but you get the idea.

Game participants each got to interview two suspects and then came together with their respective teams to deliberate and try to solve the murder. After putting on their Colombo hats, (but not really) the team determined that…

McFadden Ranch High School Graduates Honored

DENTON, Texas -- The Kiwanis Club of Denton recognized nine youth from McFadden Ranch who earned their high school diploma or equivalency by inviting them to their April 17 noon meeting and luncheon where they were awarded $50 each for their trust fund.

Spearheaded by JCO IV Gregory Winn, a longstanding member of the Kiwanis Club of Denton, the event was truly memorable for the youth who attended.

They heard a motivational and moving presentation by Texas Rep. Pat Fallon, who completed the Greatest Endurance Challenge – the World Marathon Challenge – tackling seven marathons in seven days on seven continents. He took the challenge after being inspired by Jonny Wade, a 7-year-old boy who battled pediatric cancer and had only one wish – ‘that no other kid ever gets cancer.’ Wade’s death led to the creation of Pediatric Cancer Foundation for which Fallon raised over $250,000 so far.
Fallon, who represents a portion of Denton County, said the takeaway from his experience is that we shoul…

Giddings State School hosts Victim Impact Panel

GIDDINGS, Texas -- The term victim can suggest helplessness, but victims of crimes turned that into empowerment during a commemoration of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week April 7-13 at the Giddings State School.

Members of the Victim Impact Panel, a group of volunteers from across Texas who use their st
ories to help others understand the lasting impact victims sustain, visited the school and talked with the youth in custody. The volunteers held discussions and question-and-answer sessions with the young men in their dorms, raising awareness about how victims suffer, long after a crime has occurred.

The event kicked off with a candle light vigil service that concluded with a balloon release.

“Overall, Giddings State School has made a commitment to highlight the strength of the victim and provide support because the victim does matter,” said Jorge Gonzalez, facility superintendent.

Innovation Grant Winners Will Help Youth with Practical Skills, Therapy

This year’s winners of the Innovation Grants include practical new programs that will help TJJD youth learn how to make simple house repairs, maintain cars and improve their physical fitness and emotional well-being.
The grants, which total $10,000, are made possible by the State Volunteer Resource Council for Texas Youth. Judges report they had a difficult task winnowing the many deserving proposals to the eight winning projects announced last week.
Here are the winners:
HOME REPAIR MADE EASY (WILLOUGHBY HALFWAY HOUSE) Grant Award: $700 In this project, community volunteers will teach the youth at the halfway house how to make simple home repairs through hands-on learning. They will focus on repairing floors, drywall and painting, and landscaping, and youth will complete a 12-week course. Grant funds will be used to purchase supplies, equipment and tools for the repair projects.

CAR SMART (MCFADDEN RANCH) Grant Award: $500 Community volunteers will teach the youth at the halfway house how t…

March Employee of Month – Jeanette Vrabel

Jeanette Vrabel is the TJJD Employee Excellence Award winner for Central Office.
Vrabel began her employment with the agency in November of 2015 as a Senior Contract Specialist and has become a “rock star” of that department, handling some of the most complex contracts for TJJD and more than $40 million in contracts overall.
“With over 25 years state service and over 12 years of experience in contracts, she always get the job done in the most cost efficient way,” wrote her nominating colleague. “. . . She is merciless in her management of vendors and service providers, holding each accountable for providing the best quality services we expect and are paying for.”
Outside of work, Vrabel enjoys spending time with family and friends, and she likes to get outdoors, whether for work or pleasure.
She will receive a reserved parking, certificate of appreciation and the option for a $50 gift card or 8 hours of Executive leave.

April Employee of the Month - Diane Laffoon

Diane Laffoon, a training specialist, is the April 2018 recipient of the TJJD Employee Excellence Award for Central Office.

Laffoon, who began her employment with the agency in January 2004 as a professional certification specialist, continues to be “the hub of the certification wheel for all juvenile justice across the state of Texas,” according to her nomination.
She provides excellent customer service to all those with whom she works to get training properly documented, and “despite challenges with technology and many daily questions from the field, she is always helpful and diligent.” She communicates items for follow-up that don’t necessarily even fall into her purview, because she wants to help others connect with the right person, wrote the colleague who nominated her.
Friends and co-workers know Laffoon to be an avid fan of the Cleveland Indians baseball team.  Laffoon also is a songwriter and onetime drummer.
She will receive a reserved parking, certificate of appreciation and th…