Twentieth Judicial Circuit Juvenile Judge Troy Braswell of Conway, has invited Vilonia High School seniors to invest in the life of some other students, they probably don’t know, by signing up for Teen Court.
Braswell spoke to the seniors, as a group, Wednesday in the Vilonia High School gymnasium. Many of you have a lot of support at home, he told students, but not everyone does. He encouraged the seniors to think about giving back by helping others.
“If you have ever had help, it is time for you to give back,” he said. “When people take time to invest in your life, it is an investment,” he said. “I am asking you to invest in someone’s life. You don’t have to be a lawyer or judge to give back.”
Last year, he said, a 10-year-old girl was caught with an ounce of marijuana at school. She appeared in Teen Court. “(Regarding the offense) That’s not right, healthy or smart,” Braswell said. “There is no way that is cool. That girl needs some help to make good decisions.”
He also talked about some students, who got in trouble last year, and were in Teen Court because they couldn’t control their anger.
The purpose of Teen Court, Braswell said, is to provide an alternative disposition for juveniles who have committed a delinquent act, have committed a minor offense, or have been charged with a misdemeanor.
Teen courts are staffed by youth volunteers who serve in various capacities within the program, trained and acting in the roles of jurors, lawyers, bailiffs, clerks and judges. The local teen court, Braswell said, is a sentencing court in which the offender has already admitted guilt or pleaded no contest. Braswell said he presides over the cases.
The hope is, Braswell said, when the court is complete, the case is sealed and the youth offender “never” comes back through the court system.
The students were told if they were interested, they need to fill out an application by Friday, Jan. 20. Applications are in the VHS office. It needs to be in his office, he said, by Monday. The program may be claimed as community service on resumes and with college applications.
There is training and a swearing in ceremony, he added. The program caps out at between 50 and 60 students from around the county. Students will meet in Conway every other Monday night from 5:30 to 7:30, Braswell said. The program for this teen court ends in May.