Moriah forms youth court

PORT HENRY In September, Moriah Youth Court became the 1,211th Youth Court in United States. While Youth Courts have been around since 1968, the biggest gains in popularity have come recently. Last spring a steering committee was formed to explore the feasibility of Youth Court in Moriah according to Scot Hurlburt from the Essex County Youth Bureau. The Youth Bureau is the parent agency and founder for Essex County Youth Courts. Moriah Supervisor Tom Scozzafava came out early in support of Youth Court when the idea was initially proposed. Moriah School Superintendent Bill Larrow has also been supportive of Moriah Youth Court. As members of the youth Court Steering Committee, both Scozzafava and Larrow will play roles in Youth Court as it unfolds in Moriah. Other steering committee members include New York State Police Capt. John Tibbitts, Ticonderoga Police Officer Randy Bevins, Moriah Judge Brian Venne, Moriah Police Officer Steve Stahl and Moriah Town Councilman Rick Carpenter. Youth Court members and their parents were recently afforded a dinner that was prepared by school cafeteria staff. The evening featured a variety of speakers including Essex County Clerk Joe Provoncha. Provoncha told the students that as members of the Youth Court they would be afforded the privileges and the respect afforded by their respective offices. Provoncha added that with these privileges come with many responsibilities. Provoncha closed his remarks by congratulating each one of the students on being chosen as leaders among their peers. Essex County District Attorney Julie Garcia gave high praise to Youth Court members for accepting the challenge and commitment. Scozzafava congratulated the Youth Court members and thanked them for doing something that will be good for both the school and the community. Tibbitts closed the evening by reminding the students that they have an important job to do. The outcome of their deliberations will have an effect on people in the community. Tibbitts reminded the members that they will need to be fair and objective and to always ask questions as they process their cases. Essex County Youth Court Coordinator Wendy Wintle began recruiting student last spring. Wintle collaborated with Moriah Guidance Counselor Allison Burch and Larrow. Wintle fielded a training in August that utilized justice system professionals. Garcia defined the role of the prosecutor and their responsibility to represent the interests of the larger community. Attorney Livingston Hatch spoke about the role of the defender. Hatch shared that objectivity and fairness were crucial to this role. Venne defined the role of the judge and its importance to the outcome of any proceeding. New York State Police Sgt. Steven Weightman presented the role that police play in the justice system. According to Wintle, she will continue to provide training to the members including mock trials. Once members have honed their courtroom skills, the court will begin to hear cases. Wintle expects to receive referrals from school, local and state police, courts, parents and the probation department. Members of the Youth court include Mayumi Wagstaff-Blaise, Brennan Thierry, Tyler Blaise, Sherri Guffey, Kathryn Zelinski, Caleb Armstrong, Anthony Caleb Harvish, Kearstin Petro, Dana Aurilio, Blaise Bryant, Kelley Gifaldi, Shannon Hanson, Jarrah Jerdo, Kasie McCabe, Thomas Tesar, Courtney Waldron, Hayden Whalen, Thomas Wheelock and Benjamin Zelinski. Wintle added that the members of the Youth Court are a very impressive group and should make her job an easy one. Wintle has been impressed that the members, already busy, have taken the time to send a powerful message that students can and will be part of the solution, not the problem. Wintle recognized that it is difficult for anyone to stand up and do the right thing and this may be especially true for youth who desperately want to fit in with their peers. Youth Court is a vehicle for doing the right thing. Youth court allows youth to turn the tables on negative peer pressure and instead make the peer pressure positive.

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