Today, we're spotlighting Ashly Mays of Giddings State School, as we recognize the hard work of TJJD direct care staff during National Correctional Officers Week (May 2-8).
Campus Shift Administrator, Giddings State School
Ashly Mays has seen it all during her 12 years with the Texas Juvenile Justice Department. She had been working at a grocery store in Giddings when a regular customer--who just happened to be a TJJD employee--recruited her. Though she didn’t have a background in working with youth, she was intrigued by the challenge--and the opportunity.
She started in a role the agency now calls Youth Development Coach, an essential position that interacts directly with the youth each and every day: managing their schedules, keeping them safe, providing guidance, and often lending a sympathetic ear. “I’m not going to sugar-coat it--it was a difficult job,” Mays says. “But the work is so rewarding. The support I received from the veteran staff was so important to my understanding of how to connect with the youth and how to handle different situations. When you build a rapport with the youth, that’s when they respect you.”
Fast forward more than a decade: she now reports directly to the superintendent and is responsible for the smooth operation of the entire campus during her shift, placing a priority on the safety of the youth and staff. And nothing is more important to her than making sure the new staff have the kind of mentoring she did.
“When you work with the same kids each day and you see their progress, that’s what makes this job rewarding,” she says. “I can’t tell you how it feels to see that whole process. When a youth is ready to leave campus and you know that you’ve had a positive impact, it’s a huge accomplishment for them—but for you too.”
As part of her current duties, Mays checks in with the youth on each dorm. Not surprisingly, that’s her favorite part of the job. “It’s the highlight of my day,” she says. “The kids know that I’m here if they need to talk. I want them to know that we’re going to ask, ‘Are you doing good? Are you okay today?’”
While work keeps Mays busy, she also makes sure she is there for the most important kids in her life: her three sons. “The days are definitely busy,” she says, “and my boys stay very active. We love to play basketball, and when it’s time to relax, we watch movies together.”
But her life will soon be getting even busier. Mays is finishing her bachelor’s degree this December and has already set her sights on her next accomplishment: earning a master’s degree in criminal justice. “There’s always more to learn,” she says, “and there’s always a new way to make an impact.”
- Brian Sweany, Communications