Our Voice: Drug court graduates earn another chance

With graduation season upon us, many in the community have reason to celebrate their accomplishments.

But schools and colleges are not the only institutions that help people strive to better themselves. Just like school, these programs take time and commitment, and teach valuable lessons.

One such program is juvenile drug court.

If a young offender is caught with drugs or alcohol but has not had any serious criminal charges in the past, he or she may get a second chance through juvenile drug court.

But it’s no easy task. To be accepted, the teen must be diagnosed with a drug or alcohol problem, have the support of parents and be willing to participate in a demanding program.

The four phases can take as long as 18 months to complete. And if a teen violates the terms of the program, he or she can be prosecuted immediately.

Participants have to remain sober, perform community service, take routine drug tests and attend group activities, court appearances and meetings with probation officers.

Those who succeed, however, get a chance to get their young lives back on track and have the charges dropped.

Unfortunately, more than half of those enrolled will not complete the requirements. It’s a tough program for a reason.

Those committed to success and staying out of the court system are who the program is intended to help.

“In drug court, you have to earn it,” said Troy Grall, a probation counselor who works with the program. “If you’re not going to be a productive citizen in our community, you will not succeed in the program.”

Even though it is a challenging alternative to the traditional justice system, 16 kids are enrolled and more are on the waiting list. Eighty-seven have graduated, with a few more set to do so this season.

Just because something is hard, doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing or funding.

Helping 87 kids to have a better chance at success in life is worth every penny. Young people make bad choices — it’s part of growing up. Showing them a way to overcome the consequences of some of that behavior and keeping them out of the court system could be just what they need to make it in life.

These young people have already proven themselves more than many of their peers. They also have proven to themselves that if they commit to something, they can achieve it. We can’t think of a better lesson to share.