MEDINA — The Medina County Juvenile Detention Center will become a pilot case for a new curriculum starting today.
The center has adopted a social movement called “because I said I would,” which is dedicated to the betterment of humanity through promises made and kept.
Alex Sheen, founder and CEO of the Rocky River-based nonprofit promoting the movement, has visited the detention center twice and created a lasting impact on the residents, Juvenile Detention Center Superintendent Ron Stollar said.
He said Sheen’s compelling message prompted him to reach out and see if a program could be created to spread message with the center’s 17 residents as well as its staff.
Stollar said the concept is simple: Make a promise and follow through with it.
Jaclyn Balliet, the detention center’s youth fulfillment coordinator, will begin working with residents today on the 12-week program, tailored specifically for detained youth.
The curriculum, created by Kay Spatafore, the nonprofit’s vice president of character education, will cover topics like how to handle broken promises, the courage to say no, and “why people suck at keeping promises.”
Balliet said the goal is to teach the kids responsibility and accountability.
“(The residents) will be held accountable for their behaviors and their words,” she said.
She said one unit will be taught each Friday for 12 weeks in one-hour increments.
“If promises are broken, they have to take responsibility for that,” Balliet said. “If someone breaks a promise to them, each unit teaches them to accept an apology. There’s some conflict resolution. They are important tools in any aspect of their life.”
Balliet said residents at the detention center break promises. They say they are going to stay clean or go to school, then fail to do so. Then, they find themselves on probation longer or breaking the law again.
“It’s very important to understand the skills of holding oneself responsible,” she said.
There are two Medina Schools educators and a paraprofessional that teach at the detention center, who are paid by the students’ individual school districts. Balliet was hired by Stollar and is on the county payroll.
“(Stollar) created a position where I bring in services and opportunities for their stay at the detention center,” Balliet said Thursday.
Among other tasks she performs are starting a youth garden, yoga, music and art therapy, bringing in inspirational speakers, and conducting resume building, career options and interviewing skills for residents.
“I get to do all the fun stuff with the kids,” she said.
Balliet said she has a master’s in education and was a former mental health specialist.
“I’ve worked very closely with kids and families,” she said.
The “because I said I would” curriculum will be a good fit with the residents, she said.
“It will help them holistically and systemically,” she said. “The kids are excited about it.”
She said it’s very hands on and doesn’t include much lecturing.
“We assume kids have these skills,” she said. “They are not born with them. What better skills to teach than to say what we mean and mean what they say. It will set them up for success.”
Stollar said it’s a difficult thing to keep one’s word.
“Unfortunately, in today’s society, we do a very poor job at keeping our promises,” he said. “People notice when good intentions aren’t fulfilled. We judge ourselves by our last good intention, but everyone else judges us by our last worst action.”
Stollar said the residents won’t know about the new curriculum until they arrive in class today.
“We’re going to surprise them,” he said. “So far, they’ve only been exposed to it peripherally.”
The “because I said I would” people have asked that the students take pre- and post-course surveys to keep close tabs on their likes or dislikes.
“Hopefully, it will impact the kids where they will continuously self-reflect on the promises they make as they grow older,” Stollar said. “Our lives are so busy in today’s society and culture, it’s difficult to keep our word.”
The detention center is a 30-bed facility with a mission is to protect the community from juvenile offenders by providing a safe and secure environment through integrity and professional service. The center is next to the Medina County Jail at 655 Independence Drive.
Contact reporter Bob Finnan at (330) 721-4049 or firstname.lastname@example.org.