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Juveniles on probation learn they can make a difference

By Bianca Montes
April 12, 2014 at 10:03 p.m.
Updated April 11, 2014 at 11:12 p.m.

Youth participating in Global Youth Service Day were treated to several speakers Saturday who talked to them about human trafficking and cybercrime. Students said they walked away with hope that they could make a difference in the world.

What's next?

Youths participating in Global Youth Service Day in Victoria will continue their service through April 19 by partnering with Keep Victoria Beautiful. They will adopt a location near the Victoria County Juvenile Service's Department in support of The Great American Cleanup.

If there was one message that about 15 youths took away from Victoria's Global Youth Service Day, it was that even though they cannot save the world, they still have the ability to make a difference.

Global Youth Service Day is the largest service event in the world and is celebrated in more than 100 countries. This year marks the event's 26th anniversary and is the first year the Victoria County Juvenile Services Department participated.

"Ultimately, we want to give (the youths) an understanding of what giving back to the community is," staff service coordinator Brenda Garcia said. "To understand that giving back to the community is making a difference."

During April, youths on probation at the juvenile services department worked with several community organizations picking up trash and preparing disaster relief packages, and Saturday, they helped raise awareness about human trafficking.

The morning event hosted several community speakers, including Victoria police detective Cody Breunig.

Breunig works in the cybercrimes unit and shared information with the youths about the dangers of cybercrime. His speech included information about a young girl who was lured into a sex trafficking ring and forced to become a prostitute in Victoria.

His message left an impact on a 15-year-old student who attended.

"I didn't know it was happening here," she said. "It's scary to know it does happen and that we don't notice."

The 15-year-old said the entire experience this month has taught her that there are serious consequences for her actions but also that she has a future, and she can make a difference in the world.

Her favorite day of service was working at a food bank, where she was able to see how her service helped the community.

About 200 youths are on probation in Victoria County, said Pama Hencerling, chief juvenile probation officer. Those young people and the juvenile department performed 3,534 community service restitution hours during the 2013-14 year.

A 13-year-old student who recently was put on probation for bringing an unloaded gun to school said Saturday was his first day serving his community service. Although he said he's not looking forward to the labor, he's focusing on the idea of making a difference in the world.

"That sentence really stood out to me," he said. "I can make a difference."

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