November 12, 2020 by HCDE-Texas
Four high-profile law professionals found common ground with troubled and recovering teens as the Harris County Department of Education Schools Division sponsored “The Law Society” Nov. 6.
Students from Highpoint Schools, HCDE’s school for adjudicated and troubled youth and Fortis Academy, HCDE’s school for recovering teens joined a virtual meeting with Harris County Judge Jeremy L. Brown, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, Loudoun County Schools Certified Psychologist Dr. Charles A. Barrett and Harris County Deputy Sheriff H. Ihejirikah Jr.
During the hour-long Zoom session, guests fielded questions posed by HCDE Schools Division staff Nkechinyere Ihejirikah Washington and Gabriela Hernandez. The panel answered questions about overcoming hardships as teens, family dynamics, inequities in society, perceptions of law enforcement as youth and general advice on getting through adolescence.
At age 6, Gonzalez realized his father couldn’t read or write, and he was determined to get an education and become a lifelong learner.
“You should never stop learning and growing,” the sheriff said.
Judge Brown admitted to teens that he had issues with authority figures telling him what to do as a teen.
“I have to take a step back when people talk to me and take direction from what they are saying,” the judge said.
When asked to define trauma, Barrett said he sees it as any circumstance which makes one feel unsafe and affects you physically or emotional. Examples given included gang violence or living in a violent household.
“Trauma does affect you,” he said. “It affects how much you pay attention in school and can have mental health and behavior effects.”
In Harris County, 90,000 children each year must deal with a parent who is incarcerated, Gonzalez noted. Those children inherit the trauma and often become statistics in the criminal justice system themselves.
For advice on overcoming adversity, Ihejirikah urged teens to be patient in their youth and enjoy the moment.
“Enjoy your experiences, no matter how tumultuous and no matter how joyous those occasions are,” he said. “Experiences add to your character, your life story.”
Gonzalez shared his positive outlook on growing up, suggesting that teens look to mentors and friends for help.
“If you are going through depression, it’s okay to talk to others,” he said. “We’re all vulnerable, but don’t stay in that place.”