Kids have more time on their hands and less supervision during summer vacation. Does this lead to getting into trouble more often?
Not according to the stats from Scott Mabery, Yavapai County Juvenile Detention director.
"Typically, our numbers decrease in the summertime. Arrests usually go down, and around Christmas they go down," Mabery said, and speculated that it could be Santa Claus' influence. "Or maybe because they are not in school, and not as closely monitored; or they are not caught."
One beneficial summer program for juvenile probationers, now in its 15th year, takes place at Yavapai College and around the Quad-Cities. Youth Step involves life skills classes in the morning and actual jobs in the afternoon, with some service work on Thursdays.
Probationers must interview to get into the program, and interview again to work half-days at a local business or non-profit that matches their interests. The number of Youth Step participants depends on the how much funding is available, said Jill Moore, coordinator of the program.
Some years, as many as 20 probationers in the Prescott area, and the same number in the Verde Valley, took part in Youth Step. One year, NACOG provided transportation, benefiting those who don't drive or can't find a way to and from Yavapai College where classes are held.
This year, there was only enough money to pay for eight participants at each site. Community Counts and Yavapai College help fund part of the program, with Arizona Administrative Office of the Courts paying most costs.
During the morning, students learn about life skills from a variety of instructors. These include financial classes - budgeting, checking and saving accounts, credit cards - taught by a banker, and Frank's Car Care class taught by Detention Supervisor Frank Delamater. They regularly write in journals, keeping track of their activities and what they have learned.
In the afternoons, they work at a non-profit agency such as Salvation Army, Humane Society, Habitat for Humanity, Heritage Park Sanctuary, or local schools. Students are paid minimum wage for their work and receive a stipend for class time. If any owe restitution as part of their probation terms, their earnings will help pay off what they owe.
Kevin (last names withheld) said he enjoys working alongside his supervisors at Prescott High School where he cleans and prepares classrooms for the start of school. He intends to join the Marine Corps after finishing high school, and then find work as an automotive mechanic.
On Thursdays, the Prescott and Verde groups gather together and tour college campuses, take cultural field trips to museums, participate in team-building exercises or perform trail work with the Forest Service. In the final two weeks of the program, three days a week, the Prescott group works with Horses with HEART in Chino Valley.
Learning to write a resume and prepare for the job market is a key ingredient of the program.
"Some of their employers will write a letter of reference at the end of the summer," Moore said.
Jake said his job at Salvation Army is hard work, and he appreciates that his time is occupied. His goal is to become an air traffic controller after serving in the Air Force.
Delamater encouraged the students to "preserve their investment" when they do own or drive a vehicle, and explained how much they can expect to pay monthly if they purchase a new car. Then he walked them outside to take a look under the hood of Moore's Ford Mustang.
Stephen's afternoon job with the Arizona Department of Transportation already has him checking tires and keeping the shop clean. He said the budgeting and financial classes were most valuable to him as his ultimate goal is to own a small restaurant. His father is a chef in Texas where he hopes to attend college taking culinary classes and learning how to run a small business.
Yavapai County conducts three summer programs for probationers and non-probationers: Youth Step; a regular work crew that goes out on weekends; and the five-week Youth Conservation Corps Summer Employment program that partners with Prescott National Forests. During the school year, probationers can attend Learning Enrichment After school/evening program that helps build academic and life skills.