Juvenile center needs volunteers

Special to the Press-Leader

The Southwest Oklahoma Juvenile Center, Manitou, is in need of volunteers and mentors to work with youth in custody at the center.

According to statistics, mentored teens are 46 percent less likely to get into drugs, 59 percent get better grades and 73 percent raise their goals.

“Mentoring or volunteering makes a connection. It connects troubled teens with positive adults who are willing to listen and be there for them,” said Janet Johnson, volunteer services specialist for SWOJC. “We need people to get involved with these young men. Many of our youth are looking for stability in their lives. They are looking for a connection that ties that structure together. When people share of themselves, it makes these kids feel special, more connected with their community and less likely to create further problems.”

The Manitou center needs concerned individuals of all races and social backgrounds to be volunteers or mentors. These youth have been involved with the juvenile justice system in varying degrees and can often be turned around by interacting with a positive adult role model.

“We have over 20 individuals and several groups that give of their time on a regular basis,” Johnson said. “More help is needed and we are reaching out to those who have time to volunteer with the young men at our facility.”

Volunteers provide Sunday church services, Bible studies, mentoring, tutoring and special programs. Whatever the interest, come out and share experiences.

“The biggest need at the present time is mentors,” Johnson said. “Many of our young men come from the Oklahoma City or Tulsa area, which makes it difficult to have family involvement on a regular basis. Mentors help fill that void by providing an hour-long visit on a weekly basis.”

SWOJC’s mission is to protect the community, intervene and provide treatment to juvenile offenders to reduce relapse into criminal behavior.

“Our goal is to educate and counsel the young men in our custody in an effort to facilitate their return to the community as productive, law-abiding citizens,” Johnson said.

Anyone interested in volunteering or needing more information can contact Johnson at 580-397-2615.

“Even if you can’t do a lot, call and find out what you can do,” she said.

SWOJC is a 64-bed, male, medium-security facility operated by the Office of Juvenile Affairs.

Special to the Press-Leader

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