Safety Manager Varnard Oliver has long been a positive presence at Gainesville State School, and now he's the first staffer to be named Texas Model Champion at that campus.
Texas Model Champions are team leaders recognized for their excellent work with youth and staff and their commitment to helping implement the Texas Model strategies.
Oliver, known for his compassion and dedication to the job, naturally embodies many elements of the reform program, said Troy McPeak, Associate Director of the Texas Model.
“I knew you were going to play a valuable role in moving the Texas Model needle forward,” McPeak wrote in his commendation of Oliver. “During my first training session at Gainesville, you brought a level of enthusiasm that was infectious to the entire training and were willing to role play, provide examples from the (dorm) floor and ask very good questions on turning concept to application.”
Oliver manages the Regulation and Safety Unit, where he’s “consistent, caring and in tune with his staff,” said Gainesville State School Superintendent Bill Parks. “I’m really proud of him. He does a great job of training staff and showing them what it (the Model) should look like.”
“Big O,” as he’s known, is "a friendly giant," said Rebecca Williams, Texas Model Mentor for the Gainesville campus.
“He is always cool, calm and collected when dealing with tough situations. You will constantly see him greeting youth with a big, warm, ‘What’s up?’” said Williams, who coaches staff in Texas Model concepts and evaluates potential Champions.
The Texas Model, a major reform program begun under Executive Director Camille Cain, aims to help TJJD youth find lasting success in life by connecting with and empowering them to make positive changes. It advocates a trauma-informed approach and teaching youth constructive ways to regulate their behavior.
Staff across TJJD have been training in the Model since July 2019. Prospective Texas Model Champions are asked to undergo additional training to qualify for the honor.
Champions, in turn, will promote Texas Model strategies and concepts to the Youth Development Coaches and other staff at their campuses.