"All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us." —J. R. R. Tolkien

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Five Reasons to Visit a Juvenile Detention Center

Happy Friday!

For The Texas Sweethearts Friday roundup, make sure to visit our blog. We've got a lot this week including a picture of a cupcake and where you'll be able to get one in April!
(And now I really feel like making cupcakes. That's what the weekend is for!)

*****

So Thursday, I was fortunate enough to do an author visit at the Williamson County Juvenile Detention Center. Last year I spoke there solo, and this year I spoke with author Jessica Lee Anderson. We spoke to two groups of kids ranging from ages 10-18. The first group was the kids who had not yet been sentenced and were in holding, and the second group included the kids who had been assigned to the detention center.

From one author to another, I'm going to give you five reasons why you should volunteer to speak at a Juvenile Detention Center:

1) Let's face it: the thought of speaking to a group of "troubled" kids is a bit frightening. I admit I was a bit nervous, having visions of getting heckled. But that feeling of fear is exactly why you should volunteer. To help us grow, we need to push ourselves. We need to do things that make us reach outside of our comfort zone and experience something new. So yeah, last year I was nervous, this year much less. But I did it and would volunteer year after year (or as long as they would have me come back).


2) Okay, in my talk, I mention how ideas are everywhere. Seriously, we write stories with main characters who are kids. And these are kids. The place is filled with story ideas, one after another. Just visiting the Juvenile Center is an experience. You get to see how security is done, how many guarded doors there are. And this will be perfect in the next novel you write :)


3) The kids were about the most polite group of kids I've spoken to. They never spoke out of turn. They greeted us. They applauded. They listened and payed attention. Sure, maybe they might get in trouble if they didn't, but as a speaker, I loved and appreciated their focus.


4) Have you heard of the Pay it Forward mentality? So, do a school visit pro bono for a good cause. The goodness you put out to the universe is bound to come back to you tenfold.


5) Yes, so I saved this one for last, and maybe it is the most obvious, but by volunteering to speak at a place like this, you are reaching out to kids who can use some reaching out. If I speak to one hundred kids at the center and make a positive difference in one kid's life, then I have something to be thankful for. And, based on the reactions today, I think that difference was made. I could see the spark of excitement in some of the kids' eyes that maybe they could actually write and be published one day. And that is worth everything.


So I feel like I need a picture since I love pictures in blog posts, so I'll go with one from my files. How about a typewriter to remind us all that anyone can write!

Hope you guys all have a great weekend!

31 comments:

Kelly H-Y said...

What a wonderful list! I remember your visit from last year too ... I'm so glad you had the opportunity to go back again. What a positive impact you're making!

PJ Hoover said...

I was so happy to go back, Kelly!

Susan Taylor Brown said...

Well said! I absolutely love my work with incarcerated teens. I learn so much from every visit!

Natalie Aguirre said...

I think that is so great that you go there. You never know whose life a visit like yours could change. Many of those kids have so many challenges we can never imagine that results in them making bad choices. They need some good in their life. Thanks for doing it.

Vonna said...

I'm sure your visit was a highlight of their year. I bet a lot of those kids are thinking about their first novel now.

Shelli Cornelison said...

That's amazing. If you encouraged one kid just to pick up a pen and write in a journal, you've done a world of good.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

What a great idea! Excellent post.

Thanks for visiting Book Dreaming. I love making new blog buddies. :-)

PJ Hoover said...

Thanks, Susan! It is a great learning experience!

Thanks, Natalie. I'm amazed at what the kids have been through and have to deal with on a daily basis.

I hope so, Vonna! I'd love to think that they may start writing.

PJ Hoover said...

Thanks, Shelli! I figure anything we can do to help get kids excited about reading and writing is good.

So great to meet you, Shannon! I love making new blog buddies, too!

Elana Johnson said...

Great post, PJ. Working with kids all day, I can attest to the fact that many, many of them need a reaching out. And these are the ones in a "regular" school (some of whom could be in a detention center!).

You are my hero for the day.

PJ Hoover said...

Thanks, Elana! It's so true that kids everywhere need reaching out to.
Have a great weekend!

Angela said...

I think it's wonderful that you do this, and I'm glad you posted again about it. Too many people are ready to write off kids that have run into the law without looking at the reasons behind it or realizing that this might not be what they want, either.

If you would ever entertain guest writing up an entry on a Juvenile Detention Center for the Setting Thesaurus, please let me know, because it would make an excellent addition!

PJ Hoover said...

totally agree, Angela. And I'd love to do a setting entry for the juv center. I'll get on it! Thanks!

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

pj! I love that you did this!

Kayeleen said...

I agree with you. I was part of a show choir that did an annual show at our local detention center and it was also so amazing. Working with kids helps not just them, but us as well.

Kayeleen said...

Also, thanks for joining my blog! I've seen your comments on other blogs and am glad to meet you.

PJ Hoover said...

Thanks, Shelli!

I bet the choir was awesome, Kayeleen! And it's great to meet you, too!

beth said...

Oh, I love this. This is so on my list of things to do when my book is pubbed.

PJ Hoover said...

You will rock the house, Beth! I already can't wait to hear about it!

Tess said...

I worked through college in Juvenile DT. It would have been great to have someone care enough to come in and talk about reading/writing. Those kids need inspiration and good role models in their lives. What a fantastic idea. Good karma coming your way...

laurapauling said...

Hey, thanks for following my blog.
That's wonderful you visit these kids. My husband worked in a school like this and those kids need all the social interaction with people they can get. I'm sure it was a rewarding experience.

PJ Hoover said...

Tess, how amazing you worked in a center. That must have been some experience.

It was a great experience, Laura! And thanks for visiting back :)

Barrie said...

That sounds like a really great experience.

Christina Farley said...

What an amazing thing you've done. I'm so impressed. Thank you for your work! I know that sounds cheesy but I really mean it!

Keri Mikulski said...

Wow.. Amazing. And sounds super rewarding. Kudos.

storyqueen said...

Wow, PJ, what a great thing to do.

I bet you inspired the heck out of them!

I wonder how many young lives you might have changed by that small act...

Shelley

PJ Hoover said...

Barrie, you should do it! You'd do a fantastic job.

Thanks, Christina! I REALLY appreciate it!

Thanks, Keri! Miss you already! Until we see each other again...

I can only hope, Shelley. That would make the event perfect.

Have a great weekend!

Shannon Whitney Messenger said...

What a great post PJ! I'm sorry I missed it yesterday. My blog hopping got cut a little short by the editorial email of doom. ;) But what a great idea. I'd never even considered it and you're right, what a wonderful opportunity to reach out to kids who might really need it. If I ever get to the point of publication I will definitely see if I can give this a try!

PJ Hoover said...

You are killing me with your editorial letter of doom, Shannon! I'll email you later (post kids' bedtime). The Juv Center was a great experience for me!

James said...

Thanks for coming out. The kids really enjoyed hearing you guys talk. One of the takeaways I heard was from one of my students who had no interest in writing but you reminded him that any dream is possible. Including his. Thanks.

Btw, I'm a writer as well and being a writer working in a juvenile center is a pretty good deal too.

I hope you'll come for another visit.

PJ Hoover said...

You are so welcome, James, and I'm thrilled you stopped by! It really is so important to keep in mind anything is possible.