Juvenile board meeting held Friday morning

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

Jim Wells County Judge L. Arnoldo Saenz and 79th District Court Judge Richard Terrell both praised the efforts of the Jim Wells County Juvenile Probation Department over the last year during the Juvenile Board hearing Friday morning.

One of the most significant changes is the visit by a probation officer to Alice High School and William Adams Middle School for the first time, officials said.

Two half days are spent at each campus each week, and the "Why Try" program, which helps to instill self-respect and confidence in students who are participating before they get into serious trouble, will soon be hosted in a classroom at the WAMS campus, Juvenile Probation Director James Schmidt said.

Probation officers are at four campuses in the county.

Schmidt said officers spend two-and-a-half days in Orange Grove, one day a week in Ben Bolt, two days in Premont, and now two days at Alice campuses.

"This is quite an accomplishment for your department," Terrell said.

Saenz agreed, "It's amazing."

During this year's Back-to-School Bash, officers distributed 1,000 school bags filled with supplies, which was 600 more bags than last year.

Schmidt said overall, the bash was a big success for students all across JWC.

Also on the agenda was consideration of the 2008-2009 State Financial Assistance Contract, which will provide up to $420,420 each year for two years to the department.

The amount is based on the number of referrals the department had compared to the county's size, and Schmidt said many counties did not receive as much funding as JWC.

With the increases in crisis intervention activities and the added workload from handling truancy cases, the amount considerations have increased along with the referrals, officials said.

Terrell said he's noticed the department is more aggressive in letting people know what programs are available.

Pct. 6 Justice of the Peace Jose Rodriguez, who attended the meeting, said that truancy court is now held three times a month, and averages 40 to 50 students at each session.

Schmidt also said Halliburton had shown an interest in starting a mentoring program for students in the area through the juvenile department.

Juan Ortiz, with Halliburton, spoke with Schmidt about talking to workers at an upcoming safety meeting.

Schmidt said the employees were open and wanted to get more involved with the community.

"Halliburton seemed very positive about a mentoring program. They already have 10 men lined up wanting to help," Schmidt said. "They were very receptive."