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JJC programs prove successful

May 02, 2012|By Colleen Ferreira (cferreira@wsbt.com), Click here to follow Colleen on Twitter | By Colleen Ferreira (cferreira@wsbt.com), Click here to follow Colleen on Twitter

SOUTH BEND -- The building has housed delinquent teens in South Bend for 15 years. But on Wednesday, we had a chance to see how the Juvenile Justice Center plays a crucial role in helping teens have a more positive outlook on life.

These days, it becomes easy to focus on teens getting in trouble, being locked up and not listening to their parents.

But some teens that have been through the JJC, credit the programs there for helping them get their lives back on track.

'I got locked up for 15 days," said Kalie Nard. "I cried myself to sleep every night."

When Kalie Nard was 18 years old, she spent 15 days in a jail cell at the Juvenile Justice Center.

Reliving her time in there was unsettling.

"The most hardest part is being isolated from everything," Nard said.

Nard was locked up for not going to school ; she was on probation for 3 ½ years. But the truancy program at the JJC got her education and life back on track. She was court-ordered to go to school -- otherwise she'd face more time in the cell.

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Kalie started going to an alternative school and graduated last spring.

"All the teachers help you a lot you work at your own pace it really helped me out," she said.

Now, almost 20, she'll be attending IUSB this fall.

The program is working - the JJC said in the past 5 years, 93 percent of the students that complete the program don't end up back at the JJC.

"Where would I be? I wouldn't be in this spot if it wasn't for this system," Nard said.

"There’s no price that one could pay that could thank the system for what they do for the kids here," said Kalie’s mother.

And this system is a support for many others.

Many teens say the motivation they receive here, is addictive.

"Things like this could end up helping you in life it could prevent your from your life getting worse," said Sam Litteral.

Litteral completed the JJC's read for life program which started five years ago.

Now he's a mentor himself.

"It got me to read again and it took a lot of spare time off my hands that I had hanging out with the wrong crowd," Litteral said.

Some of these teens in trouble credit the mentor program which started in December.

The voluntary program pairs them up with an adult they can call a friend - someone who they say, won't judge them.

"I was in trouble and I thought it would be good to have a mentor," said Tyler Dodd, a 16-year old New Prairie High School Student.

The programs offered under this roof have made a significant impact on teens desperately trying to change their reputation.

"Programs like this change people lives, make you think of life differently and changes you after you've been through it," Nard said.

Most of the programs are funded by the county or probation user fees.

But a few others are funded through the Department of Child Services.

Because of their budget cuts, one program was cut at the JJC.

These programs prove to be such a success with the teens; a cancelled program could affect their progress.

Probate Court Judge, Peter Nemeth said it'll be a challenge to bring the program back that was cancelled.

He's leaving office this year and a new judge will have to take on this role.

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