Teen court coordinator hopes grant will help offenders

Portales DWI Program and Teen Court Coordinator Riki Seat says teen court offenders need a push in the right direction and she's hoping mandatory classes provided by Mental Health Resources, Inc. will help.

Seat says since she became coordinator in July, she's looked for resources that would help Teen Court offenders. She applied for an $8,000 grant to contract Mental Health Resources, Inc. of Portales for group education sessions on topics such as truancy and anger management, something that has been on her dream list since taking over.

"That was one of the big things we talked about, not just punishing people, but helping them," Seat said.

Starting in April, a series of classes will be held focusing on issues that Seat said many Teen Court offenders face.

Some of the courses requested for offenders stemmed from a public focus group that involved area school administrators, Portales police officers and other city entities as well as people who work with youth.

Seat said prior to the approval of this contract, offenders were required to take a course that focused on the consequences of poor health decisions but she said these classes through Mental Health Resources, Inc. will cover a larger scope of topics and provide teens with a space to have discussions.

"We want to address the mental and emotional issues," Seat said. "We're trying to change their attitudes."

Seat says officers and other community members are excited that Teen Court offenders will have this outlet. Portales Recreation Center Director Jodi Kibbe is one of them.

"Whether it be a class or an activity to lead them in the right direction, they need as much guidance as they can get," Kibbe said.

Seat added that if this pilot program works, she plans to apply for more grants that will address preventative methods and would reach at-risk youth.

That's where she's hoping a partnership with Kibbe will work so they can use her facility to provide activities for teens and keep them out of trouble.

Seat hopes to organize some sort of youth council comprised of high school students so that they can be the ear to their own generation and provide feedback on activities they'd enjoy.

Seat is looking at options such as working with Kibbe to keep the Portales Recreation Center open from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. specifically for teens. She'd also like to do special activities such as a movie night or a dance, but she said those decisions are more powerful coming from the youth.

"If they organize it, they'll be into it more," Seat said. "I want to provide the kids with more tools to help them learn how to make better choices."

Kibbe agrees that if students are specific in their needs, she'd be willing to work with Seat to make things happen.

Kibbe said she's already discussed holding events such as a battle of the bands type of contest, themed dances or even just a hangout spot for teens on Friday nights, but she wants to hear from them.

"Once we can figure out what the kids want to do and we have the funding for it, it's going to be awesome," Kibbe said.

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