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Construction skills program gives youths way out of troubled pasts

July 29, 2018

The sound of a whirring table saw pierced the otherwise placid Wednesday afternoon at the Darrell B. Hester Juvenile Justice Center, where cadets in the residential boot camp worked with instructors in the woodshop to build a picnic table.

They donned hardhats and safety goggles before starting on the project, one of more than 100 tables and eight lifeguard towers on which cadets were working to donate to the Cameron County Parks and Recreation Department.

The building construction skills program implemented for juveniles is a unique approach to their rehabilitation, officials said, with the intention of giving them the ability to earn a living and grow self-esteem outside of the criminal activities that landed them in custody.

Rose Gomez, chief executive officer of juvenile detention in Cameron County, said the program is part of “progressive sanctions” for youth based on the severity of their offenses. Judges may remand children who violate their probation to the justice center’s residential boot camp or daytime program, where they go to school, receive counseling and learn construction skills.

Most of the children violate their parole through substance use, she added.

“There are so many underlying circumstances that prevent them from succeeding,” Gomez said, “so we want to be that constant and supervision because that’s what we’ve been enlisted to do.”

nadia@brownsvilleherald.com

A more complete version of this story is available on www.myBrownsvilleHerald.com

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