Staff came together recently at TJJD's McLennan County campus to pilot a new “Trauma-Informed Camp” for youth.
This first camp focused on nine youth from a single dorm, who engaged in games and activities for three days with specially assigned staff “buddies” and others. The goal: To break down barriers and build healthy connections between staff and the young men.
The non-stop event, filled with fun activities, “immersed these kids in an environment where they could be supported by staff and express how they felt within groups,” said Associate Director of the Texas Model Troy McPeak.
As the boys worked and played side-by-side with their assigned adult “buddies” they were learning how to discern and share their feelings in a safe space, McPeak said.
Activities ranged from obstacle courses and trust-building exercises to nurture groups and art making sessions. Camp opened each day with individual buddy meetings, followed by physical activities, snack breaks, nurture group and life skills group. Afternoons brought art activities and more games, followed by a wind-down period and buddy meeting.
Supervising staff included Texas Model Activities Leader Ian Bracken, who ran several active “Crash and Bump” activities; Youth Experience Leader Elaine Windberg, who oversaw art activities; Ron Jackson State Juvenile Correctional Complex Supt. Lisa Broussard, who led Nurture Groups; Director of Treatment Programs Dr. Evan Norton and Director of Secure Facilities Alan Michel, who oversaw the themes of the day and buddy groups; and Treatment Services Health Specialist Katie Stokes, who ran Dialectical Behavioral Therapy groups. Dr. Evan and Manager of Integrated Treatment Lacey Evans did “check-ins” with the youth.
Many others, including McLennan campus Supt. Michelle Havranek, Assistant Principal Joy Rogerson and Assistant Superintendent Antonio Houston, and other staff pitched in to make this pilot program a success.
Texas Model Mentors Monique Mosley (Ron Jackson campus), Rebecca Williams (Gainesville) and Tatrina Bailey (Giddings) came to provide assistance and also to observe this pilot camp so they can run Trauma-Informed Camps at their campuses. Alan Michel says this is the first of many more Trauma-Informed Camps to come.
And if the response at the McLennan County State Juvenile Correctional Facility campus is any gauge, the youth cannot wait.
The camp built strengthened connections with healthy boundaries, McPeak said, “and at the heart of it all I saw nine kids have a really great time over the three days.”
“Later the whole campus was clamoring to get to be part of the camp," he said. "The kids just heard the buzz and wanted to be a part of it all.”
(Photos: Tanya Rosas, Community Relations Coordinator, McLennan County State Juvenile Correctional Facility)