Our view: Youth Aid Panel a bright idea for troubled kids

May 7th, 2017 8:25 pm - updated: 9:11 am.

Imagine you’re an 11-year-old boy waiting for the school bus in the parking lot of a local bar/restaurant.

While kicking stones to pass the time, you notice something shiny on the ground. Bending down for a closer look, you realize it’s a gold pocketknife.

Thinking no one is watching, you slip the knife into your pants pocket.

Once on the bus, you show your newfound treasure to your seat mate and the two of you marvel over the coolness of it all.

You get to school, visit your locker and make your way to your first class of the day.

Before you know it, you’re being whisked away to the principal’s office, your parents are being called and local police officers are on the scene.

Apparently, someone did see you slip that knife into your pocket.

And, because knives of any kind are banned on school property, you’re now in big trouble.

Enter the Luzerne County Youth Aid Panel and, all of a sudden, you’ve got a second chance to right this wrong.

The Youth Aid Panel, started by former district attorney Jackie Musto Carroll and continued by current district attorney Stefanie Salavantis, gives youths between the ages of 10 and 18 convicted of a minor offense the opportunity to wipe their records clean.

By meeting with the panel, all volunteer members of the community, and admitting your guilt, you can enter into a contract that will allow you a second chance.

You will be asked by the panel what kinds of things you like to do, what your favorite school subjects are and what you hope to become once you get out of school.

You may be asked to do research on career opportunities. You may be asked to read a book about a certain subject and write a report on it. You may be asked to do a poster board on a particular subject.

In the case of taking a banned object into a school building, the perpetrator may be asked to read the school handbook and list all items not allowed in school. You most definitely will be expected to perform community service.

But, you will have an opportunity to make this ugly situation go away. If you complete the requirements of the “contract” you have entered into with the Youth Aid Panel, your record will be expunged, or wiped clean, and you can go on with your life.

You cannot get into trouble of any kind while performing the duties of the contract. You get only one shot at a second chance.

You can thank the members of the Youth Aid Panel for that second chance. They do this on a volunteer basis because they believe in their community and because they believe in the youth of their community.

These people are willing to give up one night a month to meet with youth to allow them an opportunity to get back on the right track and make something of themselves.

We applaud these volunteers for their commitment. We applaud the district attorney and her office for allowing this program to continue in our community. And we applaud the youths who agree to go through this program to make a better life for themselves.

— Times Leader