|Three drug court youth graduate with ‘second chances’|
|Wednesday, 29 February 2012 11:39|
By Vershal Hogan for The Natchez Democrat
Editor’s note: The story as originally published incorrectly identified Louis Banks. We regret the error and are happy to set the record straight.
NATCHEZ, MS — Three young men walked out of the Adams County Chancery Courtroom Tuesday evening with smiles on their faces and a clean slate.
That’s because they graduated from youth drug court, a program that allows qualified juvenile offenders to complete a months-long, intensive rehabilitation and educational program. In exchange for completing drug court, the teens get to keep their clean record.
The guest speaker at the graduation ceremony was Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Randy G. Pierce.
“Drug courts are there for a purpose — to give second chances,” Pierce said. “They are for us to say, perhaps we made a mistake, but we will not be defined by that mistake.”
Pierce told the graduates they were created for a special task. He told several anecdotes from his own life, noting that along the way several people helped him and gave him support. Drug court is an institution meant to provide support, he said.
Now, he said, it is time for the graduates to take the lessons they learned in drug court and apply them to their lives.
“You have a great opportunity to go forth and do good,” he said.
“Whether you’re sacking groceries or working at the Sonic now, if you set out to be the very best at that task, in 20 or 30 years you will look back and realize that that hard task has paid off.”
As they accepted their drug court diplomas, the graduates took time to thank God, their families and the court. One graduate said he was especially thankful for the lessons he learned, which was to, “handle your responsibility like a man.”
The drug court also had phase promotions for three teens. The phase promotion is a recognition that the participants are moving along in the program, Youth Court Judge John Hudson said.
“Every graduation we do, I realize when I hand out the phase promotions, I (see) happy but sober faces,” he said.
That’s because receiving a phase promotion means participants have bought into the program and are serious about finishing it. The program, Hudson told those receiving phase promotions, is meant to, “clear your life of the demons of drug abuse that will rob you of all you were meant to be.”
Case manager Louis Banks gave the graduates a charge, telling them that to receive respect they must give respect. When making a decision, graduates should ask themselves if it is pleasing to God, their families and themselves, he said.
“I charge you not to get into gangs before you get into God,” Banks said. “I charge you not to get into hip-hop, but into holiness. I charge you not to get into pistols, but into prayer.”
“Put away the toys and pick up the books — I challenge you not just to work out, but to work.”
One mother of a graduate said she was proud to see him finish drug court. Now, he’s got another milestone to reach, she said.
“Next time, in 2013, I will see him graduate high school,” she said.