County sees first Teen Drug Court graduation
Three individuals participated in the first Eastern Panhandle Juvenile Drug Court graduation ceremony held last week at the Magistrate Court in Charles Town. The three youth have completed a program that has helped them face potential adversity and move forward in a positive manner toward their life goals.
The Drug Court program, begun in 2012, has a mission stating: “Through judicial accountability, the Eastern Panhandle Juvenile Drug Court works to reduce juvenile substance abuse and delinquent acts through a collaborative community effort and with supportive programs of intervention that work toward eliminating substance use and related problems of our area youth and their families.”
Speaking at the ceremony was Judge David Greenberg, who helped create the program and who has served as the judge throughout its inception. He reminded attendees that one of the main principles behind the program for the youth is remembering “If you hang around the wrong people, you’ll never meet the right people.”
The right people, Greenberg shared, were many represented in the room celebrating the success of the program including other judges, magistrates, community leaders, educators, counselors, financial donors to the program and community members as well as family members of the youth enrolled in the program.
The program is a four-phase program with each has various requirements. The first three involve supervision, drug screening, court appearances and meeting with probation officers while the final phase is a completion and graduation ceremony.
Probation officer Shannon Travis, who heads up the local program, told the graduates how proud she was of their achievements.
“This graduation is different than any other you may have participated in,” she said. “You had to dig deep and invest in yourself.”
West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Brent Benjamin was slated to speak at the event; however, unforeseen circumstances had him in Charleston. Taking his place was Circuit Judge John Yoder who stressed again the importance of avoiding past bad habits and old friends and relationships.
“Resist that,” Yoder said in reference to reverting to old friendships.
“You have your futures in front of you and they are filled with opportunity,” Yoder said. “You will face adversity we can’t avoid that in life, but hopefully you now have tools to deal with those adversities,” he said.
As each young person was recognized for the achieving the goal of completing the program, supportive business partners, mentors and parents stepped forward to share their pride, their encouragement and their gratitude.
“I don’t think we would be here today as a family if it were not for this program,” said the mother of one of the graduates.
“This program,” said Greenberg, “is about community. It is not just another government program.”
A small reception was held in honor of the graduates following the brief ceremony.
Participants in the drug court program range in age from 10-17. These youth demonstrate substance abuse or high risk for abuse and are charged or can be charged with any nonviolent misdemeanor or felony crime where underlying substance abuse may be a factor or who are substance abuse offenders. The juveniles in the program are referred by the court or possibly the school system and must be accepted into the four-phase program. The youth and parents meet each week for Drug Court where they take part in counseling sessions and then enjoy a meal as they did Thursday.
For those who wish to find out more information about the Juvenile Drug Court, contact Travis at 304-728-1973.