The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe recently contributed $25,000 toward a new position in the county of a community coach. Chief Executive of the Band Melanie Benjamin presented a ceremonial check to Pine County Board Chair Matt Ludwig and County Commissioner Steve Hallan.
Director of Probation Terry Fawcett described the position in an email: “A coach will assist and support (American Indian) juveniles and their families to ensure that juveniles who are referred to this alternative attend scheduled court dates and do not commit additional offenses prior to scheduled court dates.”
The central goal is to provide juveniles with a sort of buffer between the court and connect him or her to the larger community, creating a net of positive reinforcement. As a community coach, the individual will work to ensure the juvenile’s attendance to court dates, identify the juvenile’s strengths and work to plug those strengths into appropriate schooling, work and extracurricular options.
The position of the county community coach is one that can be described as a move toward “restorative justice.” As part of restorative justice, the new program will be “culturally sensitive,” which “acknowledges the differences in cultures …” The individual who fills this position in Pine County will have “life experiences and knowledge [that] are rooted in and based on American Indian culture …” according to Fawcett.
Hallan said the position is the “beginning of doing something different.” He added, “We’re in this thing for the long run.” Results won’t be seen overnight, but those involved are hopeful of where the road will take them.
Ludwig echoed Hallan’s sentiments saying, “It’s going to take a while to start seeing results,” and expressed how “excited” he was to see this position take form.
In her comments during the event, Benjamin spoke of the investment for future generations. She described it as having an “impact on seven generations from now.” Establishing the position is a move “towards the good life” with an advocate working with the juvenile for a better future.
“I see how talented these kids are,” she said. “Sometimes they might get on a wrong path for whatever reason.”
According to Becky Foss, director of Pine County Health and Human Services, the next step is to create the job description. Then the position will be reviewed by the parties, and after its approval, “we would begin with the process of advertising and hiring,” Foss said.