By John McGreevy, TJJD Communications

Tina Saenz

On August 31, Tina Saenz will be calling it a day. Her well-earned retirement will be a bittersweet occasion for the staff and youth at the Evins Regional Juvenile Center in Edinburg.

A TJJD veteran (known as the Texas Youth Commission when she started) since 1989, Saenz is an administrative assistant at the Evins campus. Over the years she’s been a clerk and a JCO before taking her current position and it’s not an exaggeration when her colleagues refer to her as “an institution.”

“She absolutely is,” said Belma Salinas, Business Manager at Evins. “I had the pleasure of working with her for over 30 years. She was always planning functions and events for the staff. Her generosity helped keep morale up.”

Saenz started her career as a clerk at Tamayo House before transferring to Evins in June of 1989. “I was placed as the first clerk for the education department,” she said. “We had one clerk and two teachers and no schoolbooks, so for about four or five months there was old-fashioned teaching going on.” This meant the teachers had materials and lesson plans to work with but everything the youth were taught came from listening to the teacher and reading what they wrote on the blackboard. “The boys enjoyed it,” Saenz said.

When asked about what her favorite part of the job(s) she’s had with TJJD, she said “To be honest, it was working with the kids. I can only speak from my experiences, but the kids have always been very compassionate and very respectful.”

There’s ample evidence to suggest that the youth felt the same way about her. “Over the years, I’ve been at Barnes & Noble, HEB, or other places and I hear my name called out,” she said. “Former residents come up to me and ask me if I am still at Evins because they were here at one time before and remember me and other staff.”

Saenz stresses that the people who work at Evins and the other TJJD facilities don’t get the appreciation they deserve. “Our staff are great,” she said. “Without our staff we wouldn’t be anywhere. They don’t always agree on everything, but in a time of need, everybody comes together to help each other out.” 

This is also part of what she tells new members of staff at Evins. “This is a very difficult job,” she said, “but it does have its rewards. You may not think so, but when you see these youths out in the community and they are productive citizens, you realize that they were listening to us. Many times, they will thank you for being there for them and not giving up as many out there in their lives have.”

And that’s the enduring message she has for staff and the public as well: “Don’t give up on these kids,” she said. “It takes time. They’ve been through a lot and you have to earn their trust, but once they get to know you and trust you, you can do miracles.”

She plans to spend her upcoming retirement doing the things she’s always loved, reading books and watching movies. “For the first month I just want to relax. After that, we’ll see.”

We wish her nothing but the best.