Thursday, September 22, 2016

In April, the Texas Juvenile Justice Department completed its 11th year as a Texas Lead Agency for Global Youth Service Day (GYSD). TJJD enlisted the participation of 34 partners during this year’s event, including eighteen juvenile probation departments and a public school district. In addition, our partners engaged 43 public school campuses.

A total of 92 service-learning projects were completed by 10,133 children and youth, and 12,777 hours of service were recorded. There were 153 family members of youth who participated in the projects. TJJD staff estimates that 177,695 Texas citizens benefitted from these service projects in 69 different zip codes across the state. There were 14 media stories that provided coverage and visibility for our GYSD projects. And 29 elected officials participated by issuing proclamations, attending projects, engaging our youth in conversations about social issues, and speaking at opening or celebration events.
Furthermore, the following impact measures were recorded:
  • 116,050  Items of food collected and donated
  • 112,715  Pounds of food collected and donated
  • 5,830  Individuals receiving emergency food from community kitchens, food banks, or nonprofit
  • 5,419  Pounds of trash and debris removed
  • 4,050  Books or school supplies collected, donated
  • 1,834  Pounds of waste reduced, reused, recycled, or composted
  • 1,266  Hours served at food bank, food pantry, or kitchen
  • 1,224  People educated about the issue of childhood hunger in the community
  • 1,101  Meals prepared at kitchen, shelter, or other feeding location
  • 400  People registered for food assistance programs (SNAP, Free & Reduced school meals, etc.)
  • 399  Backpacks packed and distributed for weekend feeding program
  • 335  Individuals engaged in physical activity
  • 180  Students gain access to school/education
  • 152  Substance abuse, including tobacco, classes organized
  • 113  Native trees, shrubs, or other native plants planted
  • 90  Animals cared for at animal shelters, etc.
  • 82  Adults and youth mentored, tutored, or read to
  • 41  Native trees, shrubs, or other native plants maintained
  • 37  New adults and youth volunteer mentors, tutors, or readers recruited
  • 29  Parks, public lands, habitats, or wilderness areas cleaned or improved, preserved, protected, or created
  • 26  Actions supporting military families or veterans
  • 22  Food drives or fundraisers organized
  • 16 Letters/cards or care packages donated written to active duty troops
  • 7  Acres of land and soil restored that were degraded by desertification, drought, and floods
  • 5  Acres of harmful invasive vegetation removed
  • 5  Classrooms or school spaces physically improved
  • 5  Sites cleaned, beautified, and/or painted
  • 4  Awareness or education events organized to promote human rights, gender equality, promotion of peace and non-
  • violence, global citizenship, or appreciation of cultural diversity
  • 3  Fitness events organized
  • 3  Health check-ups or consultations provided
  • 3  Handwashing stations constructed
  • 3  Community or school gardens planted or created
  • 3  Buildings or sites reconstructed, renovated, cleaned-up, or otherwise improved
  • 2  Number of housing units developed, repaired, or otherwise improved or made available
  • 2  Emergency housing or shelters improved
  • 2  Sites monitored to collect data about health of land, water, weather, plant life, or animal life
  • 1  Sexual and reproductive health classes organized
  • 1  Roads or sidewalks improved to increase safety
  • 1  Anti-bullying initiatives organized
  • 1  Murals painted or community artwork created
Numbers can certainly communicate the scale of impact in this year’s GYSD event, but there are many stories that cannot be told with statistics. Partners shared stories that their youth learned the importance of giving back to the community after spending several hours at an assisted living facility. A halfway house youth said that he was physically tired after working several hours collecting canned food items for the local food bank, but he said he loved doing something good for others and asked about the next opportunity to do so. Other youth learned how one small act of kindness can impact a whole community of people. GYSD promises to have a lasting impact in the lives of the youth we serve.

Global Youth Service Day, an annual campaign of Youth Service America, celebrates and mobilizes the millions of youth across the globe who improve their communities each day of the year through service and service-learning. The 28th Annual Global Youth Service Day is April 15-17, 2016.  Established in 1988, GYSD is the largest service event in the world and is now celebrated in over 100 countries. During GYSD, children and youth address the world’s most critical issues in partnership with families, schools, community and faith-based organizations, businesses, and governments.

PHOTO: Youth from TJJD’s York Halfway House deliver donations to the Good Samaritan Rescue Mission.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Ayres House in San Antonio marked the conclusion of the school year by hosting its annual family day event the Walter Gaskin Picnic on June 4.  This annual event is sponsored by the Volunteer Council for Texas Youth and SA Northwest Civil & Social who have a long distinguished history supporting Ayres House in memory of one of their founders and TJJD supporters, Walter C. Gaskin.  This event allows the volunteers, the youth and their families to fellowship while enjoying music and barbeque lunch.

PHOTO: Mark Harris and Al Harris

Friday, September 16, 2016

Evins youth celebrated the 4th of July weekend with an “Independence Day Challenge,” an activity that rewards good behavior with an enjoyable campus outing.  The youth were asked to be on their best behavior and meet certain criteria to qualify for the event three weeks prior to the event. Eventually, 43 youth were able to meet the challenge and enjoyed a full fun day of on-campus activities.

Although it was a hot day, the youth were able to enjoy a watermelon eating contest, chili cheese hotdogs, chips, and nachos while listening to music and having fun by the pool and a giant inflatable waterslide.  One youth said, “Oh my God, we ate so much watermelon.  It was perfect for the occasion and it was so sweet.”

Watermelon harvest season is in full swing in South Texas and the Evins Volunteer Council was able to purchase plenty for the youth.  Some of the criteria to qualify to attend were no major rule violations, working all aspects of program and remaining in proper dress code.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Mart Regional Treatment Center hosted a family event in April with the theme “Hope Springs Eternal- Steps to a New Future.”  Family members enjoyed lunch with their youth and then worked on  a family project where each youth and their families uniquely designed and painted a stepping stone. The stepping stones will be planted on the campus of MRTC, some of which adorn the walk way into the facility.

Monday, September 12, 2016

On May 19th, 2016, McLennan County State Juvenile Correctional Facility received 60 visitors to celebrate the mothers of youth on campus at a Mother-Son Banquet. Families enjoyed a song written and sung by one of the youth and a presentation of the seven habits to practice raising strong children by the recreation staff. Then, while eating lunch, the mothers were encouraged to stay strong by a guest speaker discussing the importance of mothers in a child’s life. The sons presented a certificate of appreciation to their moms for being there for them through the good and bad times. The afternoon wrapped up with a few rounds of bingo and family photos.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Where are you from originally and where have you spent the majority of your adult life?

I was born in Little Rock, Arkansas; however, my father was in the Army, and growing up, I traveled across the United States, spanning three states (Colorado, Texas, Kansas) and we lived in Germany twice. I graduated high school in Junction City, Kansas, outside of Ft. Riley, Kansas. I was previously married to a military officer, and this union took me cross country again to an live in three more states (Georgia, Missouri, and North Carolina, and Texas again). I have been fortunate to live in many different parts of the country, but I still
consider Arkansas as my home, being all of my family still resides there.

What led you to your career in juvenile justice?

I’m the oldest of five daughters, and I’ve always enjoyed working with young people. When I moved to Ft. Hood, Texas in 1998, I was one year short of completing my Bachelor’s degree, so when I went to be advised at the University of Central Texas (Tarleton State University acquired the school in the Fall of 1999) , my question was “What degree can I get within the next twelve months, and still graduate as scheduled”? I had more than enough transfer credits for a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice, so I jumped at that option. I always toyed with the possibility of going to law school, so this seemed like a perfect fit. During this time, I was offered an internship at the Bell County Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program in Killeen, and subsequently got hired as a  Case Manager with Communities In Schools at the same site. Since then, I’ve been a case manager in a residential SBTP program, the Director of Case Management for G4S, an Assistant Detention Director for GA Department of Juvenile Justice, an Assistant Facility Administrator again with G4S, and an Internal Affairs Investigator with the AR Division of Youth Services. So I guess, it was almost a fluke, because if my transfer credits had been enough for a degree in education, art, or counseling, I’d be doing one of those jobs.

What do you want others to know about Giddings State School?

There’s a lot of history at Giddings State School. The street our facility is located on is named after then Texas Youth Commission’s Executive Director Dr. James A. Turman, whom the roundbreaking lawsuit Morales vs Turman is litigated against, which has forever changed the way juvenile justice correctional/rehabilitation facilities nationwide operate. The Giddings State School is also the only facility in the country that operates the Capital and Serious Violent Offender Treatment Program, that continues to provide intensive treatment to youth, that have committed more heinous crimes in our system. Besides those things, its one of the most beautiful campuses I’ve ever visited or worked at. I’m equally proud to say that we have a very talented and dedicated staff base, many who’ve worked at this facility in excess of 10, 15, 20, and 30 plus years. Several of the current Central Office staff began their careers at Giddings.

What is the best part of your job?

I hate to sound like a cliché but I really love all parts of my job. I love providing activities for the youth and staff at the Giddings State School. I can remember a conversation I had years ago with a young man on my caseload, when returning to work on a Monday afternoon. He asked me did I have a good weekend, and I replied “Yes, I took my children and nieces to the zoo, we had a lot of fun.” The young man in turn replied, “I’ve never been to the zoo.” At fifteen or sixteen years old, he made me realize that many of the youth we serve don’t experience some of the “normal” childhood experiences that we have had or provide to our own families. Since then, I have made a point of normalizing the lives of the youth I come in contact as much as possible, from Easter Egg hunts, to Trick or Treating inside the facility, or enjoying a simple game of BINGO with an ice cream sundae. Many of our youth have seen and done things that most of us can never imagine living through. I truly believe that every kid sometimes just wants to be a kid, and that’s all they should have to be for a moment in time.

What are your greatest challenges as the Giddings Assistant Superintendent?

As with most things in life, change is hard for people. My greatest challenge as the Assistant Superintendent at Giddings is going through this change process, and being patient with the process. I’m excited at what’s been accomplished in the past 145 days, and I’m looking forward to what lies ahead.

When you are not working, how do you spend your time?

My family and I relocated, and yes we live in the tiny town of Giddings, four months ago, and it’s been quite an adjustment for my teenage daughters, lol. When I’m not working, this is almost an oxymoron,  we like to travel and visit the Big State of Texas. We’ve spent a considerable amount of time in Dallas, College Station (which I love, and wish was closer to Giddings) Houston, and have even ventured to the coast to dip our toes in the Gulf of Mexico at Galveston. My husband is a self proclaimed carnivore, so eating as much Texas Bar-be-Que we can get our hands on has become a hobby of ours. Chip Walters had to correct me very early on that “Texans don’t eat hot dogs, they eat sausages.” I’ve not made that mistake again, lol.

What advice would you give to a young new juvenile justice professional?

One of my favorite movies is The Devil Wears Prada. While it may be considered a “chick flick” I’d recommend it to anyone who hasn’t seen it. The movie, sad but true is in many ways very indicative of what any new professional experiences in the early stages of their career. There will be days when you will be unsure if “this” is what you really want to do. Your hopes and dreams will appear unattainable. The demands will seem nearly impossible. Things you swore you would “never” do may become your reality. The world will become your worse enemy, any you will feel alone and want to give up. DON’T! That’s my first piece of advice. Don’t give up. You are more equipped than you might believe to handle anything and everything that is thrown your way. Mr. Ashrita Furman currently holds the most Guinness World Records with more than 125 titles. That’s a lot of attempts, fails, and more importantly successes.  My second piece of advice, when in doubt, ASK. Everyone was “the new kid on the block” at some point, so don’t be afraid to seek out guidance . Develop a support system. I have been fortunate enough in my career to have some awesome people willing to nurture a newbie like me, and their friendships and advice have been invaluable. Lastly, be patient with yourself and the process. Things will seem foreign, you might have to work a little harder at first, but a learning curve is natural in all aspects of life. On the bookshelf, in my office, I have two books that perfectly sums up all of my advice, one is Eat Less Cottage Cheese and More Ice Cream, by Erma Bombeck; and the other is Everybody’s Got Something, by Robin Roberts. They are both constant reminders of the important things and life, and help me to stay focused on recognizing

Friday, September 2, 2016

The construction class at the Lone Star High School South (Evins) designed and created 18 zoo animal chairs to be donated to a local school for young children to enjoy.  The chairs featured three pandas, five elephants, five zebras, and five giraffes.

LSHSS construction class students knew the chairs would be donated to a local school for young children and took great care to apply the skills they learned in the class. The chairs were donated to the Lincoln Elementary School that serves pre-K through 5th grades in the Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District.

Lincoln Elementary School Principal Eva Sandoval was very appreciative of the 18 chairs and noted that the students will love the chairs.  She added they would be given to the early grades to motivate the students to read.

Construction teacher Roberto Flores and LSHSS former Principal Dr. George Padilla delivered the chairs to the school on Friday, May 13, 2016. Dr. Padilla actually attended Lincoln Elementary School when he was young.

PHOTO: Edinburg, Lincoln Elementary School Principal Eva Sandoval and Construction Technology Instructor Roberto Flores from Evins Regional Juvenile Center