At-risk youth come together for 2017 GRIC Juvenile Drug Court Conference
November 17, 2017
Thomas R. Throssell
Gila River Indian News
At-risk youth in the Gila River Indian Community, who are working to get back on the right path participated in the 2017 GRIC Juvenile Drug Court Conference held at the District 3 Head Start on Oct. 28.
The conference is held for youth who are in the Community’s Juvenile Drug Court (JDC) program, which is an intensive program requiring weekly counseling, community service, activities that contribute to healthy living, and mandatory school participation.
Youth in the program are typically facing charges from GRIC’s Prosecutor’s Office, and by participating in the JDC program their charges are put on hold, and once they finish the program their charges are dropped, which leaves them without a record, allowing youth another chance at leading a normal life.
Norma Nahsonhoya, GRIC Juvenile Drug Court Coordinator, said the conference began five years ago, after they found kids in the program had trouble integrating with other youth at the annual Youth Council Conference.
“A lot of them come from disadvantage households, they are struggling, they are not in school, social issues, some are wards of the court, no fault of their own,” said Nahsonhoya. “They didn’t feel comfortable with the big tribal youth conference so we decided to work on something and in 2013 we held our first conference and ever since then we have been having one every year.”
This year’s conference was emceed by 2017-2018 Miss Gila River Anissa Garcia, with an introduction by GRIC Children’s Court Judge Jay Pedro, opening blessing performed by Anthony Gray, and keynote speaker Lt. Gov. Monica Antone. The event was filled with activities from door prize drawings, ice breakers, a BBQ lunch, a performance by the Gila River Basket Dancers, speeches on recovery and empowerment, as well as a motivational presentation by Michael Preston, and cultural presentation by Jiivik Siik.
Judge Pedro, who has been involved with the conference since its inception five years ago, said the event is for Community youth who may not have control over their lives, and the program is helping them get through some of their own serious issues.
“They aren’t really serious offenders, but they are at risk,” Pedro said. “They are at the stage where if somebody does not intervene, they probably are going to get more into the court system by committing more serious crimes, and we are trying to head that off now.”
He added that the Community court system, from the GRIC Prosecutor’s Office to the Defense Services Office, is fully in support of turning the youth’s lives around, so they have an opportunity to lead a healthy and positive life.
“We are a team, we have representatives from the probation department, behavioral health services, tribal social services, tribal education, our law enforcement, our prosecutor’s office, and our defense attorneys, they come together and collaborate,” Pedro said.
Nahsonhoya said the conference is there to support the youth, and show them that they are supported outside of the court system as well.
“I think all the children in the Community are of value and they all need some encouragement and support in their lives, and in these types of programs, we offer that for them, and we do our best and try to help them as much as we can,” she said.