"If we wish to create a lasting peace, we must begin with the children." -Mahatna Gandhi
Scholarships for programs instilling self-worth are a cornerstone of the nationally recognized Garland County Juvenile Drug Court and its team of court officers and community members who enable a novel tack to juvenile adjudication.
Enrolling its charges in music, arts and sports programs has proved effective, making the court a model for best practices that have been co-opted by jurisdictions around the country.
The scholarships wouldn't be possible without the court's biggest patron, Kamo's Kids Foundation, a charity memorializing its namesake, Kameron Hale, a Lake Hamilton student killed in a 2009 ATV accident. The drug court program gives agency to the foundation's mission of providing for the county's underserved children.
Proceeds benefit the foundation, which in turn benefits the drug court's H.E.R.O.S. program. An acronym for Helping Each Other Reach Our Sobriety, the program was christened last year by drug court participants. Juvenile Drug Court Director Chris Burrow said the name follows from the need to dissociate from the stigma that can attach to those enmeshed in the court system.
"We let our kids sit down and throw out different ideas, and the kids liked (H.E.R.O.S.)," Burrow said. "We don't refer to our kids as drug court kids."
The scholarships are part of that dynamic, helping the H.E.R.O.S. youths cultivate an identity that counters external perceptions while sublimating into constructive activities the adolescent angst that can trigger illicit drug use.
"A lot of them just need that positive encouragement," Burrow said. "Some of them get labeled, and they get discouraged. They get to a point where they feel like, 'so what.' We want to put them in something positive.
The scholarship activities are supplemented by weekly counseling sessions with outside professionals, rigorous supervision and frequent random drug screens. Accountability contracts stipulate behavior and academic requirements by which participants have to abide.
"It's not our goal to incarcerate," Burrow said. "Our objective is to limit the JDC and DYS commitments. We want to think outside the box."