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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Juvenile CenterHelping teens evolve spiritually, mentally and socially

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“Let us rise up and build our young people,” is the mission statement that Tonya Hill, volunteer coordinator for the Marion County Superior Court Juvenile Center lives by.

It was also the theme for the inaugural revival for youth detainees Hill conducted with the help of other volunteers.

Hill, who has been serving as volunteer coordinator for the juvenile detention center for two years, says the revival’s theme was inspired by Nehemiah 2:17-18.

“This particular scripture talks about the distress we lay in, but our approach was to look at the distress our youth are in today,” said Hill. “I could no longer sit around and not do anything about it.”

Hill and chaplains of the Marion County Superior Court Juvenile Center joined forces to plan the revival that took place last month, which included workshops, poetry readings, a baptismal service and other activities.

Alongside registered volunteers of the Marion Superior Court Juvenile Center, Hill enlisted the help of churches throughout the city.

The revival placed high emphasis on the workshops that included “Communicating with God,” and “Who is God.” These informational sessions were held prior to the revival to give the youth a better understanding about God.

Hill said many of the teens had apprehensions about attending the revival.

“A lot of times youth can get caught up in emotions about attending church or getting baptized,” Hill said. “We really wanted them to know what they were about to step into so we set up workshop sessions to help further their knowledge about God.”

Students who participated in the revival and baptismal services will have a team of volunteers to help them continue on the right path while in the community.

Also, youth who are currently detained will have guidance as well as a mentor who will meet with them regularly for sessions. Mentors will engage with the youth in recreational activities, career focus and other programs.

Volunteers who have mentored youth in the past at the detention center have made a significant impact in the lives of teens at the center.

“Helping mentor youth in the detention center can really make a difference,” Hill said. “It’s very crucial for the community to get involved with our youth because it can ultimately help lead them from making a wrong choice.”

Hill hopes that in one year, the teens will have a significant testimony to help inspire other youth about their experiences and life changes. The devoted volunteer said it’s very critical the community get involved with the troubled youth, noting that nearly 70 percent of students detained at the detention center are there because some members of the community didn’t show an interest in the teens.

Hill credits DeShane Reed, superintendent of the Marion County Juvenile Detention Center for allowing the revival to take place.

Reed was inspired to help other troubled youth stemming from his troubled past. He also said he has always had a passion for giving back to teens who are considered at risk.

“I don’t think (this career) would have happened without me having this hiccup,” said Reed.

Although the revival is over, Hill and Reed encourage residents to get involved with the organization to help mentor youth.

“The revival was a very powerful experience for the youth and now that (the revival) is over, we must continue to help make a difference in our youth who are detained.” Reed said.

Interested volunteers of the mentoring program must initially adhere to a training session in which mentorship skills will be taught. The volunteer program at the Marion County Juvenile Detention Center is divided into seven teams where mentors will be placed.

Some of the programs offered include spiritual, physical and mental wellness, social skills, citizenship, recreational leisure and career inspiration among others.

“I really want the career inspiration program to expand because it is very important for our youth to have a planned future,” Hill said.

For more information about the volunteer service programs at the Marion County Juvenile Detention Center, contact Tonya Hill at trhill@indy.gov or by phone at (317) 327-8495.

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