WEST CHESTER — In accepting the award for Chester County Juvenile Probation Officer of the Year on Wednesday, Greg Rice quoted luminaries such as civil rights leader Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and Harvard professor Cornel West. But he paid tribute to men and women just as important to him as those icons.
Rice named his colleague, Shane McLaughlin, who introduced him and preceded him as the award recipient, as someone he relied upon almost daily for professional guidance. He cited his internship supervisor, Jamaya Vega, and his workday supervisor, Brandy Spriggle, as inspirations in professionalism.
He also pointed to his colleagues Mary Bolla and Kristina Sladek, who were also nominated for the award, as people he was privileged to work with. And finally his parents, Dudley Rice and Gretchen Rice, as role models to seek truth and speak it.
“The bottom line is that this award, as is the case with most awards, is not about the person receiving it,” said Rice, a West Chester University graduate who has worked in the juvenile probation office since 2014. “Rather, it is a reflection of the relentless support, kindness, and hard work that has surrounded that person."
Addressing those who had gathered in Courtroom One of the county Justice Center to celebrate next week’s Juvenile Justice Week, Rice gave simple advice. “I implore all of you to take the time to reflect on what is important in life, keep an open mind and heart towards others, ask a lot of questions, and never shy away fro the fear you will inevitably experience when you continuously strive to do what is right.”
According to the department, the mission of the state’s juvenile justice system — “balanced and restorative justice” — focuses attention not only on juvenile offenders, but also their victims and the community by providing opportunities for juveniles to develop valuable skills, restore their victims and keep the community safe.
In his opening comments, Chief Juvenile Probation Officer Don Corry told those assembled, including President Judge Jacqueline Carroll Cody and Juvenile Court Supervising Judge John Hall, that the county had been working to change the focus of the probation officers’ work. Instead of being simple “compliance monitors” who make sure the offenders do what they're told and do not re-offend, the office has begun establishing the probation officers as role models and “change agents.”
The goal, Corry said, was to help juvenile offenders establish new life patterns and keep them out of “out of home” placements in juvenile facilities. The approach is new, and sometimes difficult to handle.
“It is a challenging job that these people do,” he said of his staff. “But we are hoping that it works for all parties.”
Also honored at the ceremony was a 19-year-old Oxford woman who had been selected as the Juvenile Court’s “Good Choices” award winner for someone who had progressed successfully through the system. The woman, who asked to remain anonymous, came to the probation office after committing an offense after she graduated, with honors, from Coatesville Area Senior High.
She dedicated herself to regaining a foothold from the day she came for an intake interview, said her former supervisor, Probation Officer Joseph Frankenstein. “It was evident that she had the capability to be successful,” he said. “She told me, ‘Maybe this is what I need to get back on track.’"
The woman now works at an area hospital and is preparing to enter school to gain certification as a licensed practical nurse, he said.
Additionally, Terri Greeley, the department’s fiscal coordinator, was acknowledged for being named the 2018 Juvenile Court Judges’ Commission Support Person of the Year. She will be presented with this honor on Nov. 8, ceremonies in Harrisburg.