PDT Staff Writer
Bailey Blair believes there is nothing she can’t do with her future, though there was probably a time she didn’t feel that way. Oh sure, she needs to be reminded from time to time, but she is blessed with a support group from the office of Scioto County Probate/Juvenile Court Judge James Kirsch and people like Dawn Keller who has been a mainstay in that office for as far back as most people can remember.
Saturday morning, juvenile probationers who were working off time and fines and such were busy picking up the trash at the Scioto County Fairgrounds. Among them was a vivacious, active, bright-eyed teenager with a ready smile and a greeting.
Blair is one of many young people who are in need of intense supervision to keep them on the straight and narrow. But make no mistake about it, Blair has her life mapped out.
“When I get out of high school, I plan on going to the Marines,” Blair said. “And then, when I become an MP (Military Police), I’ll have a guaranteed job in law enforcement. And I want to be a deputy. They’ll put me through school, and I’ll go for Criminal Justice. I want to be a probation officer. And then I’ll be able to choose between the two - if I want to be a deputy or a P.O., I’ll have two options.”
Faith in the future is the focus.
“I tell her all the time, she can be anything she wants to be,” Keller said. “When she gets into trouble, we tell her she needs to keep reminding herself she is special and can be anything she wants to be.”
Blair is just one of the many teens that the Juvenile Court works with everyday, and specifically the week of the fair.
“We have 24 kids out here, and we start every single morning at 8 o’clock and clean the fairgrounds from top to bottom, everywhere, all the trash every single day,” Keller said. “That’s why it’s so beautiful. They (juveniles) have different issues. They’re working off some fines, and they have been great workers. There are no problems out here. They’ve been respectful to people out here. They have worked hard all day long.”
Kirsch said the process of dealing with troubled teens begins with education. He said many have trouble with subjects in school. So help is brought in. One of the ways Kirsch, Keller, and other members of the Juvenile Court staff does it is with the Alternative To Detention program which they conduct on Saturdays certain times of the year.
“They don’t just have one problem. They have a whole host of problems,” Kirsch said. “But we help them educationally, socially, just in daily living skills. Then we help their parents become better parents.”
The ATD program won a Community Recognition Award from the Ohio Department of Youth Services.
Keller dons her plastic gloves and joins in with the girls as they make their rounds.
“The first of the week when they saw the messes people create, they were shocked,” Keller said. “Many of them have told me that after this experience, they will never litter.”
The food booths were opening their windows, livestock was being taken to the big auction, kids were lining up to ride the rides, and Bailey and the other girls were still picking up the litter, as the Scioto County Fair continued on Saturday morning.
What is it like to witness a success in the life of a troubled teen?
“It’s what we work for,” Keller said. “It’s a blessing. It’s what we work for. It’s what we strive for. We want to see these kids get help, and we work hard at it. Judge cares for these kids, and it filters down to us.”
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.