Detained Juveniles Celebrate Vets for Christmas
The Kenneth Honey Rubenstein Center in Davis is the largest juvenile detention facility in the state with room for 84 juveniles. The minimum security facility features a program called Governor’s Adolescent Leadership Academy (GALA). Cabinet Secretary of the WV Dept. of Military Public Affairs and Safety, Joseph Thornton, says when the facility was being built several years ago, the intention was to go beyond establishing required vocational and educational programs.
“The national Guard has a voluntary program for youth called Mountaineer Challenge Academy,” Thornton says. “It’s been very successful. When the idea was to develop the Rubenstein Center, we thought we could take elements of that successful program and build a Challenge Academy of sorts for adjudicated youth. And it’s really become the shining star of the juvenile services programs.”
Stephanie Bond is the acting director of the WV Division of Juvenile Services, formerly the superintendent at the Rubenstein Center. She says one objective at the center is to inspire youth to aspire to be productive.
“We want to see them leave us in a much more productive state of mind,” she says. “We know that they’re all going to be out there. They’re going to be somebody’s neighbor. The staff really work hard to try to impact these kids’ lives.”
The 5-phase program allows youth, or “cadets” as they are referred to, to merit benefits such as their own bedroom, more leisure activities, and other privileges. The average stay lasts about six months. Cadets come from all over West Virginia. 18-year-old Zack from Parkersburg has been at the center for about four months.
“I’ve learned a lot,” Zack says. “I’ve got my diploma, I’ve got stuff to help me get a job. It’s not just sending me out on my own, they give me skills that I can use in real life. I can get certified in welding so that I can go straight to work. And I’m on work crew now so I’ll have money for when I get out.”
Zack says he doesn’t get paid much, but anything is enough. He admits, the holidays are a difficult time to be held in detention. It’s hard to be away from family and home. Each year for the past decade or more there’s a special dinner where members of the community, family, and the cadets get together to celebrate Christmas with food, cards, and theater.
This year the cadets are paying special homage to veterans who have also had to spend time away from family during the holidays. They performed skits and presented poetry celebrating vets today, from WWII, and even remembering the Civil War.
Bond says many cadets have told her that some of the best Christmas’s they’ve had have been at the Rubenstein Center. “Which is sad,” she says. “But it’s nice that we can give them something.”
According to acting superintendent at the Rubenstein Center, Dan Dilly, this is a special Christmas with as many as 20 kids being sent home for the holiday.