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DYS Tournament provides several great momentsDate: 04/23/2018
The young man had just spent hours running, jumping, shooting, and dribbling a basketball while competing for the Mansfield Juvenile Treatment Center during the Department of Human Services Division of Youth Services (DYS) Jamboree.
Due to being court-assigned to a DYS center, the jamboree was a rare opportunity for the players to compete in front of family members.
Though the tournament was over, the young man still wore the emerald green uniform. The teen sported a smile as he walked toward his loved ones.
Taking advantage of the moment, he playfully teased his younger sisters. The youth also tightly hugged his mom, as tears slowly flowed down her face.
All the while, the various center employees exchanged well-wishes as students got a postgame meal of a hot dog, chips, and a pickle.
The inevitable was near. People were slowly leaving the Boys and Girls Club of Saline County gymnasium. Along with his fellow players, the young man would soon return to a treatment center where his actions and education are closely observed.
At each facility, DYS provides programs that rehabilitate its students. And creating traditional teen interactions is part of the plan to help youth mature and successfully return to their communities.
The jamboree was a chance for students – who were given permission by center administrators – to participate in a normal, enjoyable situation.
“It’s the first time in 20 years we’ve had our facilities together for an athletic competition,” said DYS Director Betty Guhman. “I enjoyed it. We had several kids thank us for putting the event together.”
“While under our care, we want the kids to experience normal moments such as playing sports,” Guhman added. “These kids are working hard and doing what our staff has asked of them. Seeing them happy and having a day where they can show what they’ve learned and interact with their families made me happy.”
Five of the division’s seven state operated juvenile treatment centers competed in the jamboree.
Governor Asa Hutchinson played alongside students in an exhibition game. Hutchinson even grabbed an impressive open-court steal, which drew claps and cheers from the crowd.
Chris Baker, a former Arkansas Razorback football player, presented a speech on the importance of remaining motivated while overcoming obstacles. State Representative Kim Hammer was in attendance to give the jamboree trophy to the tournament winner: Arkansas Juvenile Assessment and Treatment Center (AJATC).
“The tournament was monumental,” said Boys & Girls Club of Saline County CEO Jasen Kelly. “I definitely believe it will lead to similar events (for the youth).”
April Hannah is Deputy Assistant Director of DYS, and she beamed with pride while discussing the competition.
“Everyone displayed good sportsmanship. For it to have been our first event of this kind in 20 years, the jamboree went very well,” she said. “The players had a chance to experience what happens when they take care of business and show respect to staff and their peers.”
Youth from the Arkansas Juvenile Assessment & Treatment Center in Alexander, Arkansas, operated by Rites of Passage had a large group of supporters – consisting of staff and family members. Among the more lively moments of the jamboree was a unison chant of “AJATC number one! AJATC number one!”, by the center’s players and fans. “Our young men put in a lot of effort in preparation,” said Marlon Morrow ROP Program Director. “For the guys to win the tournament, it feels awesome.”
The Lewisville Juvenile Treatment Center finished second. Cassandra Henry, the Facility Services Liaison, was proud of her team.
“It felt good watching how well our young men conducted themselves. The tournament was outstanding,” she said. “All the young men were encouraging one another. I loved seeing that.”
The jamboree was a special moment for DYS, according to Hannah.
“The tournament is one of many events we’ve done since acquiring our residential facilities in January of 2017,” she says. “So the tournament became a great anniversary gift for everyone affiliated with our division.”