Crete: Police, Schools Join Mission to Help At-Risk Youth

Crete Monee High School

By Karen Haave

The Crete Police Department and Crete-Monee school officials have joined forces with Angel’s Helping Hands to offer at-risk youth an alternative to school discipline or arrest.

“Angel’s Helping Hands is a pilot diversion program tailored for at-risk youth,” CPD Chief Scott Pieritz explained “We partnered with them through the Crete-Monee High School to offer an alternative to school discipline and/or arrests in the school.

“This program is endorsed by Will County Circuit Court Judge Jessica Colon-Sayre. I worked with Judge Jessica when she was a State’s Attorney and later when she became a judge. This program was a collaboration between Dr. White–who runs Angel’s Helping Hands–and the juvenile justice system in Will County.

“It has started in Eastern Will County, with several police and school districts signing on. The school and police department work together to screen potential youth/students who may benefit from the program.

“A student/youth can be recommended for the program with or without criminal charges. Not all students are eligible, depending on the seriousness of the incident/crime or willingness of the offender to participate. Parents must sign off and buy into the program.”

The six-week program’s goals are to address the negative behaviors of the youth in the community to prevent offending and/or subsequent offending, Pieritz added.

“This is accomplished by several steps: Screening and assessment for potential mental health, substance abuse, or physical abuse; education and tutoring services; victim awareness classes and activities; service-learning programs; counseling for youth and family; and crisis Intervention.

“Topics covered include communications skills, respecting authority, accountability, self-awareness, goal setting, professionalism, careers and trades, conflict resolution, positive health behaviors, emotional intelligence, and many others.

“I personally signed on because I believe it is important to offer at-risk and problem youth opportunities to correct their behavior and make better decisions, without placing them into the criminal justice system.

“We were all young once and have all made mistakes. Juveniles/youth often make poor decisions, are encouraged by their friend groups, or have other underlying issues that may contribute to them committing deviant or criminal acts.

“Many youth are at a disadvantage and do not have stable households, mentors, or a good foundation to make good decisions.

“In addition, mental health and substance abuse problems are a real threat in today’s world. Left undetected or untreated, that leads to more serious problems.

“Part of this program is screening for these potential problems, to get to the root of these behaviors.”

Dr. Kara Coglianese, superintendent for Crete-Monee Schools, supports the new program.

“We are so pleased to be working alongside the Crete Police Department, CM 201u Community Mentoring Program, and Judge Jessica Colon-Sayre (Misdemeanor Presiding Circuit Judge of the 12th Judicial Circuit of Will County) to provide our students with access to more restorative resources,” she said.

“This program utilizes the combined partnership with all of these local organizations to keep students on the right track.

“Students who are making poor choices that lead them into adverse situations within the school or broader community are able to seek counseling, mentoring, and restorative programs such as the Station Adjustments through the Crete PD, to participate in community services. “Students learn to give back to their community through service hours, which connects and re-engages them.

“The Student Resource Officer program has been instrumental in building relationships between our students and our local law enforcement agencies,” she added, “to also make connections which, ultimately, has a long lasting impact for the community.”

Karen Haave is a freelance reporter.

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