JJAEP to get assist from Mentors Care

Local non-profit will provide services for juvenile offenders starting Jan. 1

Bill Spinks
Waxahachie Daily Light
Non-profit organization Mentors Care recently announced a partnership with the Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program of Ellis County. Pictured at the JJAEP facility located in Waxahachie are (left to right) Tom Moore, Chairman of the Board of Mentors Care; Dena Petty, Director and Founder of Mentors Care; and Darren Robinson, JJAEP Administrator.

A local non-profit organization is joining forces with Ellis County to provide services for the county’s new Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program.

Mentors Care, which is based in Midlothian, has announced it will begin serving the JJAEP starting Jan. 1. Mentors Care will serve under the guidance of Juvenile Probation Officer Chief Chelsie Smith and JJAEP Administrator Darren Robinson. 

“I’m so excited that Mentor’s Care will be joining us at our Ellis County JJAEP in January 2022,” said Judge Cindy Ermatinger of the 443rd District Court, a co-chair of the Ellis County Juvenile Board, in a news release. “Mentors Care will be a great addition to our program for the students.“

Judge William Wallace of the 378th District Court also serves as co-chair of the Juvenile Board. Also on the board are Ellis County Judge Todd Little, 40th District Court Judge Bob Carroll, County Court at Law No. 1 Judge Jim Chapman, County Court at Law No. 2 Judge Gene Calvert, and County Court at Law No. 3 Judge Joe Gallo.

The Ellis County JJAEP was created to give juvenile offenders a second chance to make better choices and continue pursuing educational opportunities before reintegration into a normal classroom setting.  Mentors Care staff will mentor students one-to-one, mirroring the mission of JJAEP.

“The students at JJAEP will have the opportunity to have a loving adult mentor meeting with them each week while in school using Talking Points curriculum to guide the student to understand the importance of an education and graduate; discuss topics dealing with what character traits it will take to be a successful adult; and discover gifts and talents and guide them toward thinking about a future full of hope,” Mentors Care Executive Director and Founder Dena Petty said. “Serving these students is our heart and we are very excited to begin Jan. 1, 2022.” 

Local school districts of Ellis County have been running alternative education programs such as Waxahachie Independent School District’s Challenge Academy and Midlothian ISD’s LEAP Academy. However, recent enrollment growth in general has caused county school districts’ alternative education programs to fill, taxing district resources.

Without these programs, the only other alternative is either suspension or expulsion from school, which educators say is the last resort because it leaves potentially dangerous individuals unsupervised in educational settings.