“It can have a huge impact on turning a lot of people’s lives around.”
Tommy Ramirez, Cameron County’s Chief Probations Officer, is overseeing the transformation of the old Harlingen Police Department into a center that will house several agencies ready and willing to help troubled youth in the Harlingen area.
“It will provide vocational training, academic instruction, drop out recovery, recreation, spiritual awareness, drug and alcohol counseling,” just to name a few, said Ramirez.
The intended targets are teenagers who have dropped out or are involved in gangs, or just headed in the wrong direction.
The jail is the only part of the police department not being used at this time, and administrators hope the kids that come through their doors won’t end up behind bars.
“I robbed a store,” said the teen to Action 4’s Marcy Martinez.
He found himself in the Darrel Hester Juvenile Detention Center after years of running with the wrong people in a gang.
He says now he’s headed in the right direction, but could have started on this journey long ago if there had been a safe haven like the Harlingen Outreach Center, a place to escape the gang with tools to help him succeed.
“It would help me through school. I would probably be in college or go to the army or something.”
Now this once troubled teen is helping build the foundation that could possibly change the futures of others just like him.
“I’ve been painting, moving old stuff out, bringing new stuff in, remodeling stuff. Changing it up a lot, trying to make it look good. It feels good, like this is better than I ever felt.”
by Marcy Martinez
Reprinted with permission from: The Valley Central/Action 4 News