In its 40th year of service, Youth Services System has more than a birthday to celebrate.
A Graduation ceremony for the 47th Basic Academy class of the State of West Virginia Division of Juvenile Services was held May 2 at Catholic Charities Center. The academy is responsible for correctional officer training.
Comprised of YSS Northern Regional Juvenile Center employees, the 47th class was the first to be trained in Wheeling. For 27 years the center has served youth in juvenile detention in the Northern Panhandle.
Graduates of the 47th Basic Academy class included Robert Bundock, Erika Campbell, Jerrett Foster, Kristine Hartley, Forest Hendrickson, Brandt Mazeroski, Krisinda McMahon, Kirk Pittman, Donna Rowlands, Jennifer Snyder and Derrick Woods. The group spent several weeks learning safety and intervention techniques via traditional and role-playing methods.
"It takes people to help change people, and we want our people to be the best they can be," YSS Executive Director John Moses said. "(The Academy) gives our employees a lot of good information, insights and techniques in dealing with the many behaviors that the kids would exhibit. Our primary mission is to rehabilitate and restore the spirits of these kids."
Stephanie Bond, acting director of the Division of Juvenile Services, said juveniles can tell when correctional officers care about them.
"You guys make the difference," Bond said.
Keynote speaker for the event was Wheeling Police Chief Shawn Schwertfeger, who shared his own continued learning on-the-job even after 23 years in law enforcement.
"You are now a public servant, and by accepting this challenge you will now have a complex and difficult job," said Schwertfeger to the graduates.
Indeed, the 47th class embraced both the challenge as well as their group unity. Asking his fellow graduates "Who are we?" elected class speaker Robert Bundock received a "47!" response in unison from the group.