Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Local News

March 22, 2013

Annual summit focused on helping troubled youth

— GOSHEN — Nicola Tracy said he would like to think of himself as a normal 17-year-old. The problem? That’s not true.

“A normal 17-year-old doesn’t have a rap sheet thicker than the Bible,” Tracy told his audience at Goshen’s Maple City Chapel Thursday.

Suffice it to say that Tracy has a history with the juvenile justice system. He’s also a young man making the most of an opportunity.

The Elkhart youth told his story during the Community Summit on Children, an annual event geared toward youth care and juvenile justice workers, educators, law enforcement personnel, case managers and others who work with young people. Close to 350 of them turned out for the summit, which was sponsored by Elkhart County Juvenile Court personnel.

Tracy was locked up last October. If he hadn’t been, he indicated, he would have gotten in trouble a couple of his friends — friends arrested on murder charges.

“This is kind of like my second chance,” he said.

Tracy said that while incarcerated, he slept on hard beds and ate bad food. It wasn’t fun, but the teen feels the experience gave him the guidance, self-control and discipline he needed to regain control of his life. He’s earned his GED, and will start classes at Ivy Tech in May.

Adults working with youths were the Summit’s target audience Thursday. And Tracy had praise for just those type of people — the staff at the Juvenile Detention Center, JDC teacher Maureen Lorman and juvenile Magistrate Deborah Domine.

“She’s like my second mom,” Tracy said of Domine. “I’ve seen her on multiple occasions.”

Making a difference

Summit attendees heard praise for their efforts throughout the day from various speakers, including Indiana Supreme Court Justice Stephen David.

“You make the difference in your community,” David said. “You make the difference in your county.” In concluding remarks, he encouraged his listeners to go out and do great work for children.

“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the children you can, for as long as you can,” David said.

Terry Barker, superintendent of School City of Mishawaka, lauded the audience’s work, too. He also urged them on.

Barker, himself a onetime foster child, called on them to equip children with a sense of faith. He encouraged teaching the values of education and perseverance. Barker said children must be taught the value of family — and “family” isn’t always about blood. It’s about relationships, and knowing there are people who care.

And “care” was one of the C’s cited at the Summit by Magistrate Domine.

Domine indicated that in Juvenile Court, cases of abuse and neglect, delinquency and termination of parental rights are down substantially. There were 2,300 cases filed in Juvenile Court in 2008, she said. There were 986 cases last year, a 60 percent drop.

“It takes an entire community to make change, and the reality is there is enough credit to go around,” Domine said. “Everyone in this room is responsible for these numbers, because we collaborate, we communicate and we care.”

Justice David also pointed out that Elkhart County is one of only eight in the state participating in the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI). The program brings together stakeholders including prosecutors, public defenders, the courts, probation staffers and churches. The results, according to David, and fewer children in secure detention and recidivism rates heading downward.

Impact of trauma

Another presenter at Thursday’s Summit was Kris Buffington of the National Traumatic Stress Network. She cited research and statistics. She also challenged attendees with a “What if?”

Imagine an official announcement about traffic signals: Red lights would now mean “go,” and green “stop.” Motorists would be anxious for years in the wake of trying to unlearn behavior.

So it is with coping with childhood trauma, in Buffington’s view: Kids can’t just snap out of it.

Buffington said it’s no coincidence that children who’ve been exposed to trauma — physical or sexual abuse being examples — are part of the juvenile justice system. She said some studies indicate children who are exposed to chronic violence and trauma have higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder than soldiers returning from combat.

Buffington said youths exposed to chronic trauma often have to learn to function in a state of constant alertness or preparedness for danger. This survival ability conflicts with the focus and self-control needed to succeed in school, she said. People who’ve been around a lot of hostile behavior may also misread social cues, and sense aggression when it’s not being directed at them. There are problems with and distrust of authority figures, since the children have a history of being hurt be the adults who were supposed to be caring for them.

Trauma assessments for troubled children are key, according to Buffington. She also indicated the people working with those kids should foster a sense of safety.

“Know when authoritarian responses are needed and when they’re not,” she said.

Buffington also feels working to keep children in school is vital.

“If you want to create a hopeless case for people, rob them or get in the way of them getting an education,” she said.

‘Don’t ever stop’

Furthering his education is exactly what Nicola Tracy has in mind. He told his story Thursday, and stood onstage at the Community Summit on Children as an example of what can go right after much has gone wrong.

Domine joined Tracy on that stage, and asked him what the people gathered at the church could do to help other young people like him.

“I’m hard-headed,” Tracy said. “A lot of us teenagers are. We always think we’re right.” His advice? Give them guidance.

“Don’t ever stop,” he said. “Don’t ever give up. ... Just be there for them.”

1
Text Only
Local News
  • GN140423 Wakarusa Musical 3 'A Kid's Life' portrays sudden techno loss WAKARUSA — The young people of our present day society don’t remember ever having lived their lives without some element of electronic gadgetry becoming involved. For them, it would be difficult to fathom the possibility of a world “off the grid.” So the fourth- and fifth-grade students of Wakarusa Elementary School will offer a comedic and chaotic interpretation of such a dilemma with their upcoming musical “A Kid’s Life.”

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • GN140423 stress relief 03 Furry pals help GC students with dog days of finals GOSHEN - Goshen College students took a break from preparing for final exams to hangout with some four-legged friends Monday afternoon.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • GN140423 FF spring play_3547 Fairfield students to present Oscar Wilde classic BENTON — Fairfield’s musicals and plays have recently left their status as an extracurricular activity and come under the wing of the Performing Arts Department and under the direction of Andrew Muth.

    April 23, 2014 3 Photos

  • Sheriff Brad Rogers_0657 Sheriff travels to Nev. ranch in fed dispute Elkhart County Sheriff Brad Rogers has weighed in on a controversy surrounding a Nevada rancher, and visited the scene of the struggle.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • GN140209 snow storm 05 Elkhart, LaGrange counties denied FEMA aid GOSHEN — Elkhart and LaGrange counties were not among the 19 Indiana counties that had financial aid approved Tuesday by FEMA for a January winter storm.

    April 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Prep Roundup BASEBALL Falcons garner road win The Fairfield Falcons posted a 5-4 victory Tuesday evening at Rochester. Dustin Everage (three innings), Andrew Bobeck (three) and Austin Christner (one) pitched for the winners. Everage struck out three to earn the

    April 23, 2014

  • Akela.jpg SLIDESHOW: Pets of the Week Available cats and dogs at the Humane Society of Elkhart County. These loving animals are looking for permanent homes.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • GN0423 BC IN Common Core Indiana panel approves new school standards

    A panel of Indiana business and education leaders were met with boos and jeers from attendees after they voted overwhelmingly Monday to support new math and English standards set to replace the Common Core in classrooms this fall.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • The week in photos

    April 22, 2014

  • GN140421 board of works BOARD OF WORKS: Properties deemed uninhabitable

    Repairs still need to be made to two Goshen properties that had been targeted by the city Board of Public Works and Safety.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Poll

There has been discussion at West Goshen Elementary School to require mandatory student uniforms in the future. How do you feel about the prospect of mandatory student uniforms in a public school environment?

I think it’s an excellent idea that is way overdue
I think it’s a bad idea and would be restrictive for students and parents.
     View Results
AP Video
Bon Jovi Helps Open Low-income Housing in Philly Pipeline Opponents Protest on National Mall Hagel Gets Preview of New High-tech Projects S.C. Man Apologizes for Naked Walk in Wal-Mart New Country Music Hall of Fame Inductees Named 'Piles' of Bodies in South Sudan Slaughter New Yorkers Celebrate Cherry Blossom Blooms SCOTUS Hears Tv-over-Internet Case Justice Dept. Broadening Criteria for Clemency Chief Mate: Crew Told to Escape After Passengers 'Miss Meadows' Takes Holmes Back to Her Roots Biden: Russia Must Stop Talking, Start Acting David Moyes Out As Manchester United Manager Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India Iowa College Finds Beauty in Bulldogs High Court to Hear Dispute of TV Over Internet Stowaway Teen Forces Review of Airport Security