Steve Eiseman, 57, who just retired as deputy chief probation officer of the Chicago’s Cook County Juvenile Court, developed programs that have been considered models for other juvenile justice systems, says the Chicago Tribune. The Jump-Start initiative, started in 2000, helps teenagers from 16 to 18 who have dropped out of high school or are on the verge of doing so. About 4,000 juveniles are on probation or supervision at any given time and no more than 5 percent will finish high school. To combat such grim statistics, teens in Jump-Start are immersed for 10 weeks in interactive classroom activities – taught by specially trained probation officers – to build reading, math and social studies skills.
He said the best probation officers know that to identify a child’s potential, it’s important to build strong trusting relationships. Noticing that his colleagues were using their own money to pay for activities, he helped create the Marx Fund (marxfund.org) – named after a fellow probation officer who died in 1989 – to give officers the resources to provide life-enriching opportunities for their clients. His “mission statement:” “Always remember that for probation officers, miracles may be rare, but good things happen every day – a passing grade, an appointment kept, a chore completed. We celebrate these things because we know that every small triumph may hold the seed of a future success, and then another and another.”