The START Program is a half day educational program offered at no-charge and open to all members of the community, juvenile offenders, parents, and at-risk kids.
START is facilitated by the Williamson County Juvenile Services Prevention Specialist Tanielu (Dan) Tuiasosopo. Attendees are provided with an overview of the Williamson County Juvenile Justice Center, the Texas Juvenile Justice System, and the Williamson County residential programs.
Although many of the participants come as a result of referrals due to the youth's involvement with the police, juvenile detention, or chronic school behavior issues, the START program is also offered for families and youth stakeholders working to prevent youth from entering the juvenile justice system.
One of the most poignant components of the START class is when current residents are brought in to answer questions about what daily life is like as a resident. Youth are encouraged to ask the residents questions and are given honest answers in return. This peer-to-peer interaction is often noted by the youth who attend the program as the most impactful portion of the class. A tour of the Juvenile Justice Center is offered at the end of each class and includes a walk-through of a residential dorm, the Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program (JJAEP), and the court room.
Participants are asked to complete an evaluation at the conclusion of the class. Feedback helps to improve the program, and is consistently positive. The following are examples of the type of feedback received:
"If I would have come to this class before I committed my offense I wouldn't have done what I did. I feel like everyone should go to this class or have this class placed in schools..."
"I really enjoyed talking to the cadets and their honesty. They gave me an idea of what will happen if my behavior doesn't change."