Haywood JCPC recognize outstanding youth

By Rachel Robles, Lifestyles editor | Jun 19, 2014
Photo by: Rachel Robles RECOGNIZED YOUTH  — From left are Courtney Dotson, Jim Gaston, Joshua Lopez, Jonah Cogburn and Erica Giverson. Each teen was recognized for outstanding achievement in his or her program.

The evening of June 12 was one of smiles and tears as the Haywood County Juvenile Crime Prevention Council gave special recognition to a group of teenagers who had made vast improvements in their lives.

The Juvenile Crime Prevention Councils in each county of the state, in partnership with the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, work with community leaders, locally and statewide, to reduce and prevent juvenile crime.

“The JCPC has a wide array of community personnel who have an interest in children,” said June Ward, lead consultant for juvenile community programs. “They look at at-risk youth and address their needs.”

These needs of often addressed through different kinds of programs.

Kids at Work, for example, is a 16-week interpersonal skills development program that teaches clients culinary skills. Clients gain academic credit while learning essential kitchen and cooking skills. One of the unique aspects of this program is that, while grant-funded, additional funding comes from the Kids at Work catering special events. The students currently in the program prepared, cooked and served the meal at the awards ceremony.

“Each county gets an allocation through DPS,” said Ward. “Each county has an obligation.”

For fiscal year 2013-14, Haywood County JCPC received $143,039 in state funds and a local match of $39,288.

The money allocated to Haywood County this year helped 79 youth and funded four programs — Hawthorn Heights, Project Challenge, COMPASS, and Aspire Day Treatment. In the next fiscal year, the JCPC hopes to add Kids at Work.

Hawthorn Heights is a behavior modification program at Barium Springs Home for Children in Bryson City where clients learn moral reasoning and decision-making skills. Clients have written work and group assignments to advance in the program and to earn privileges such as off-campus visitation with their family.

Project Challenge is a restitution and community service program that provides an option other than juvenile court. Clients work to repay or give back to their community to make up for damages or injury caused by their offense. Project Challenge also allows clients to perform court-ordered community service, and teaches four basic social skills — asking permission, getting along with peers, accepting criticism and following instructions.

COMPASS is an interpersonal skills building program designed to help at-risk or court-involved clients develop critical life skills. The program teaches social and communication skills, conflict resolution, interpersonal skills, problem solving and coping techniques. Clients also participate in wilderness-based activities designed to build self-esteem.

Aspire Day Treatment is a structured day program for at-risk or court-involved youth ages 10 to 17 with mental health, substance abuse or academic problems. Parents of clients are required to participate in support groups, training and family counseling sessions.

The students recognized at the awards ceremony were nominated by their program leaders.

Though she wasn’t present, Leanna Davis was recognized for earning the highest honor at Hawthorne Heights.

Also not present, Miranda Davey was recognized for overcoming tremendous personal obstacles and helping to secure additional funding for Kids at Work.

Courtny Dotson, with Project Challenge, was recognized for her positive attitude and willingness to change.

Erica Giverson, with Aspire, was recognized for improvement and emerging leadership skills.

Jim Gaston, also with Aspire, was recognized for his incredible progress and for emerging as a strong youth leader.

“I never thought I’d get back on my feet,” said Gaston. “I always felt pushed down.” He talked about how the program helped him “break out of his shell” and discover who he was. Gaston received a standing ovation as he returned to his seat.

Jonah Cogburn, with COMPASS, was recognized for “realizing he’d made a mistake and wanting to change” and his efforts towards improving the group.

Nick Yon, with COMPASS, was not present, but was recognized for his leadership skills.

Joshua Lopez, also with COMPASS, was recognized for overcoming his personal struggles and making great strides towards improvement. Lopez also spoke after receiving his award.

“You don’t just affect yourself,” he said. “You affect everyone around you.”

After the presentation of awards, John Chicoine and Celesa Willett, the incoming chairman and vice chairman, respectively, congratulated the students.

“Kids are doing great things,” said Chicoine.

“There are great things in store for you,” said Willett. “You just have to stay on the right path.”

The Haywood County JCPC meets on the first Wednesday of every month except for July and January. All members of the public are invited to attend and learn about juvenile crime prevention measures in the county.