Students TREC through |

Students TREC through

Being 17 is a rough age for any high school student.

For Catalina Tolstead and Greg Stoker, graduating high school is even more of a challenge.

Students at the Transitional Reporting and Education Center are on probation trying to right their past wrongs. They ask that people not to write them off because, despite what some people might think, they are far from lost causes .

“I’m not stupid, I just chose not to go to class,” Tolstead said. She began getting in trouble in her early teens when she lived in Southern California.

“It’s not that bad, it’s probably better than regular school,” Stoker said of the center.

Tolstead and Stoker both plan on passing the General Educational Development test next month. Neither student felt they excelled in a traditional school atmosphere and TREC gives them the time and attention they need to learn in a neutral environment with a small group of students.

Tolstead is expecting her first baby next month and will move to Oklahoma to be closer to her mother as soon as her probation ends.

Stoker wants to attend community college and then has dreams of enlisting in the Marine Corps.

Minors who commit crimes in South Lake Tahoe are usually sent to the Placerville juvenile detention center. The facility has a structured discipline and is often counterproductive for teens who need alternative methods of schooling and counseling.

TREC is an intensive day treatment program funded by a Board of Corrections grant that provides education, counseling and probation supervision under one roof.

The facility, located at 1286 Kyburz Ave., opened Nov. 1. It allows parents and their children to be involved in the probation process. Students attend classes on a closed, supervised campus from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., followed by four hours of counseling.

An average of 15 students stay for 90-120 days of classes and receive one-on-one attention from their teacher and teacher’s aide. The program’s goal is to help the teens re-adjust to the classroom and their community.

Counseling is given to children and their parents. The services generally help minors who have drug and alcohol problems or those with behavioral management issues.

“A lot of the students have not had regular school attendance and there are gaps in their education,” Marian Batten, TREC teacher said.

“A lot of the things we do involve hunting for those gaps.”

Batten thinks that children learn in different ways and has always been most interested in teaching those individuals. She recently returned from Moscow where she taught special education for the Anglo-American School for seven years.

“I think if education could be what we all wanted it to be, it would be more this way,” Batten said.

“We don’t want to punish kids, we want them to succeed,” said Joseph Warchol II, from the probation department.

“Our first group was kind of tough,” Beth Spafford, full-time deputy probation officer at TREC, said.

Spafford enjoys her new in-house post because her prior job as a field supervisor required her to call the parents when juveniles broke probation rules.

“I get to see their talents now rather than see them get in trouble,” Spafford said.

“It’s stunning to me to see how intelligent and how talented these kids are, ” El Dorado County Presiding Superior Court Judge Suzanne Kingsbury said.

“I hope we can continue to make (the program) a successful model,” she added.

Like any new program, Spafford said that the program has been altered to best fit the needs of the kids and their parents. Minors must qualify for the program through a selection process based on needs and potential risk factors.

When problems have surfaced the staff of TREC has been able to administer conflict and resolution management to the teens before a situation gets out of control.

According to Spafford and counselor Rafael Elias, things have changed for the better.

It’s all a matter of being someone the kids can look up to and trust over the three-month stay, Elias said.

“We’re hoping to have parents be more a part of this as time goes on,” Elias said.

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