Area youth advocate graduates to retirement

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 31, 2003

NATCHEZ &045; It seemed fitting Monday morning that Carole Seale’s last official duty as director of the Adams County Adolescent Offender Program was to sign diplomas for the program’s 2003 class.

&uot;It is a real joy,&uot; Seale said as she not only graduated seven hard-working students Monday, she also ended a seven-year commitment to at-risk children in Adams County.

Seale, who has served as director of the Adams County AOP since 1996 and as coordinator for the county’s youth drug court, retired at the end of April.

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During graduation ceremonies for this year’s AOP graduates, AOP staff members, members of the Adams County Coalition for Children and Youth and representatives from the state department of youth services honored Seale for her tireless dedication to and belief in the children of Adams County.

&uot;We owe a debt of gratitude to Carole,&uot;

Adams County Youth Court Judge John Hudson said Monday, &uot;She has made a lasting difference to the care for children and youth that are at risk in Adams County.

&uot;We have the best juvenile justice system in the state of Mississippi, and Carole has played a major role in that.&uot;

In July 1996 Seale joined the AOP program as its director. Heading the first program of its kind in Mississippi, Seale began to mold it into one of statewide and national prominence.

As a result, the Adams County program is recognized as the premiere program in the state.

&uot;Every year 600 kids are referred to (Adams County Youth Court) Judge Hudson. Of the 600, 100 have committed serious crimes,&uot; Seale said. &uot;We wanted to create a diversionary program that keeps students in the home where we could work with families.&uot;

The AOP program takes children who have committed such crimes and teaches them the skills necessary to prevent them from returning to the system.

Referred to the program by the county youth court, students learn skills in anger management, conflict resolution and values. Counselors spend time with families to work with students in the home.

&uot;We are their last chance,&uot; Seale said.

That last chance has turned into a good chance her students will not return to the court system.

Only a small fraction of AOP students return to commit other crimes. For Seale, that is the biggest success of AOP.

&uot;We have a 5 percent recividism rate,&uot; Seale said. &uot;We save the state millions of dollars.&uot;

As each student walked up to receive a diploma Monday, Seale’s smile became broader and broader.

After all the diplomas were awarded and the accolades given, Seale stood up to say thank you.

&uot;I could not have asked for a better end,&uot; Seale said. &uot;It is a happy day.&uot;