Youth receive life lessons from prominent community members

By: Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers | Published December 21, 2013

In a complicated world, there are convoluted problems, so sometimes it takes a token of wisdom to provide stability.

That was the message being delivered at Justice Day, a community outreach event attended by more than 200 at-risk students from eight different school districts.

The event was hosted by Michigan Schools and Government Credit Union (MSGCU) in conjunction with the Macomb Intermediate School District, and it took place at the MISD in Clinton Township.

The speakers included Judge Linda Davis, Judge Carrie Fuca, Judge Antonio Viviano, Macomb County Sheriff Anthony Wickersham, Brenda Romanchik, Cooley Law School Professor Monica Nuckolls, Lou Fazzini, David Joseph and officers from Macomb County’s K-9 Division.

“It was a community outreach program because we work with schools and government, so we kind of thought, ‘How do we bring schools and government together?’” said Shannon McIntosh, consumer education specialist at MSGCU. “We thought about choices and consequences that high school students go through. A lot of judges say, a lot of times, it’s different today, like doing something stupid and having a record for it.”

The event, a day-long foray into the professions and duties of the numerous guest speakers, was a way for at-risk youth to become acclimated on what separates a good decision from a bad one. The speakers’ intentions were to inspire the incorrigible and offer an outlet of hope for a better life.

MISD’s chief academic officer, Judy Pritchett, said during the event’s welcome remarks, “Sometimes life throws us curves.”

But at the same time, life also throws fastballs. It’s just up to the youth to make the right choices and have good people in their lives to make such dreams possible.

Viviano was a judge for 18 years, and has been out of the court room for three years now. He was a judge in family court, which included juvenile court, and he was a juvenile drug court judge for five years.

He has seen the good and the bad about the youth in society. He knows that a child’s upbringing can shape a life in negative ways if the parents are unsupportive or have their own issues, although personal decisions have a lot to do with how lives unfold in the path toward success.

“We always gets distorted in our society because we concentrate on the very few that maybe cause us a lot of trouble,” Viviano said. “There are an awful lot of kids that are doing a very fine job making decisions that are positive, constructive, building careers and so forth. Unfortunately, a few kids seem to make decisions that are self-destructive. I don’t know how else to put it. They do things that will not help them prepare for their future, they increase their loneliness and they get into anti-social behavior.

“This kind of program tries to bring to their minds that there are alternatives that they can choose to alleviate some of the suffering they feel in their lives that can be destructive. Hopefully, we’ll reach their minds, which (is what) you have to do.”

Speakers waxed poetic on different topics during Justice Day. Macomb County’s K-9 Division did demonstrations for the kids while various speakers expounded on what can lead to a fruitful life, and what the difference is between right and wrong in the game of life.

Sheriff Wickersham wanted to teach the kids about the dangers of leading a life built on crime, and also inspire those who might decide to pursue a future in the field of law enforcement.

“It’s giving (the youth) an understanding, at least from my perspective, of what we do in the sheriff’s office,” Wickersham said. “It’s geared towards a day in the life of an inmate, from the time arrested to the time of release from jail.

“Anytime I can get an opportunity to get in front of a group of students, I hope that my interaction with them is a positive one. Whether they’re in with the wrong crowd or are thinking about a career in law enforcement, they have a better understanding and direction of where they want to go with their life.”

Brenda Romanchik is the clinical coordinator of Mount Clemens’ Care House, a child advocacy center that deals with suspected sexual or physical abuse of children. The Care House is actually a house, so it presents a calm atmosphere that doesn’t intimidate the kids.

“I’m going to talk about abuse and assault, what the differences are and some of the laws that apply to them,” Romanchik said. “Things like sexting and why it’s important they know about these things, and I think a lot of teenagers have no idea. And they do a lot of things that, it’s just a cool thing to do and don’t know about the legal ramifications.

“A lot of the kids that are at risk for committing crime are also at risk for being victims of crime, so perpetrators often target children and teens who are at risk.”

Deliberated earlier this spring, this is the first such event that has occurred in alliance with the MSGCU, MISD and the assortment of speakers. Events like it offer an outlet for youth, whether responsible or misguided, to realize that answers do exist in life if you try your hardest to find them.

And the biggest message is that life isn’t easy.