On the Right Path
Three complete juvenile drug treatment program
(pictured above: Reclaiming Futures graduate Tamayia Wilson (left) is greeted by Judge Camille Banks-Payne, Sen. Earline Parmon and City Council Member DD Adams (right).)
Reclaiming Futures Juvenile Drug Court celebrated its inaugural graduation last week, more than a year after its January 2013 inception.
Supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, the program gives 12-16-year-olds access to a variety of treatment options and programs designed to help them get on the right path.
“It is the belief of all that drug court works,” declared District Court Judge Denise Hartsfield, who presides over the program. “…We believe in this. We believe in these young people.”
The Reclaiming Futures model goes beyond the parameters of traditional court, with a personalized approach that offers opportunities for growth and experiential learning in addition to treatment, explained Mark Kinney, coordinator of the program.
Three teens – Marcus Montgomery, Krishard Watson and Tamayia Wilson – were feted for their successful completion of the program during the April 2 ceremony, which was held in Courtroom 1C of the Forsyth County Courthouse.
“They have to be clean for 90 days, which is tough, and they’ve done a heck of a job,” Kinney said of the program’s inaugural graduates.
A host of community leaders praised the graduates, including Police Chief Barry Rountree, District Court Judge Laurie Hutchins and former Chief District Court Judge William Reingold, who was one of the program’s staunchest supporters when it was launched last year. Rountree charged the youth to believe in themselves, be leaders, stay clean and continue learning.
“I try to learn something everyday. You need to do the same thing,” he said. “It’ll carry you a long way.”
Graduation day has been a long time coming, Hartsfield told the audience of family members, friends, well wishers and current drug court participants who gathered for the celebration. Although its initial year has been beset with both challenges and setbacks, Hartsfield said there is ample evidence that the program is working.
“Even though sobriety is the ultimate measure of the court, I see young men and women out there who have made tremendous strides,” the city native said. “I’m proud of you all and I know in three more months, we’re going to have another one of these (graduations).”
Hartsfield’s bench was decorated with pineapples, which she regards as the unofficial drug court symbol. The longtime judicator likened the fruit to the drug court participants, whom she says have tough exteriors but goodness inside.
The inaugural graduates participated in a boxing program, learned about auto body repair through Southside Rides, expressed themselves with the help of the spoken word troupe Authoring Action and discovered the world of aviation during a weeklong summer camp.
“An idle mind really is the devil’s workshop to some degree,” Hartsfield remarked. “We found out this summer the more that the kids are involved, the more likely they are to quit smoking.”
State Sen. Earline Parmon served as keynote speaker.
“I didn’t come here to lecture you today,” she told the youth. “I came here to encourage you. I want you to lift your heads high, because it’s okay to be proud of something that you’ve accomplished.”
Parmon, who represents Forsyth County’s 32nd District, reminded the graduates to stay the course and put their mistakes behind them.
“Because you made a mistake, that does not have to define your future. No one can do that but you,” she said. “You have a choice to make. Today can be the beginning of the rest of your life.”
Parmon told the youth to remember the sacrifices they made and the challenges they overcame in order to make it to their graduation day.
“The program that you’re in is reclaiming your future – your future has been reclaimed,” she intoned. “You may have a past, but that’s in the past, and guess what? You are graduating today. You are on a new path.”
The freshman senator implored the teens to chase their dreams.
“I’m the first African American senator ever to represent this county, and I’m telling you that because I want you to know you can do whatever it is that you want to do,” she declared. “Think big. Shoot for the stars, and you will fall in heavenly places.”
Crystal Thomas, a recovering drug and alcohol addict, reminded the youngsters of the pitfalls that await them if they succumb to their addictions, imploring them to “Stay focused, stay positive and surround yourselves with positive people.”
“I’m gonna tell you, you can do anything,” said Thomas, who now owns her own home and cleaning business. “But you don’t want to waste half your life like I did before you finally get it together.”
Juanita Campbell thanked organizers for creating the drug court program, which she said has made a difference for her grandson Krishard, 14.
“The drug court to me is not just about getting the kids clean. With my child, it’s been some other issues going on with behavior, school, things I didn’t have control over,” Campbell said. “Things have been changing. He’s not the best, but he’s not the worst. He’s improving, and even after today, I still have people on my side.”
Campbell said drug court leaders gave her the tools she needed to help her grandson get on a better path.
“I just thank God for this program,” she declared, “because I don’t want to give him to the streets.”