The Division 1 courtroom of the Newton County Courthouse was filled with supporters Friday afternoon, as five Neosho students graduated from the Newton County Juvenile Drug Court program.
The brainchild of Newton County Presiding Judge Timothy Perigo, the drug court program works to put students back on the right track, and currently serves approximately 30 Newton County youth.
"We have five deserving graduates today, they've worked hard," said drug court administrator Marty Yust. "We're here to support them."
Yust said Perigo joined with the Neosho R-5 School District approximately one year ago to create the juvenile drug court.
"We've had tremendous success," Yust said. "The relationship with the school, school board and faculty is 10-plus, we work well together and it shows with our graduates."
Perigo said there are several people who have a hand in the success of the program, including parents and guardians, the Neosho R-5 School District, and those in the Children's Division.
He said the program tries to focus on several aspects of the participants' lives.
"We try to incorporate the whole person, not just look at one area, we look at grades, attendance, attitude and then we have counselors look at them and then we encourage extra curricular activities," Perigo said.
The drug court graduated five students: Jade, Danielle, Michael, Jeri-Lynn and Christian.
Perigo spoke on the improvements the students had made, and on their success in the program.
"He went to the office, on average, at least once a week. In the last 12 months, Michael hasn't had any disruptions to go to the office," Perigo said. "That's not just due to the program, that's due to Michael growing up and becoming a mature citizen, so, we're really proud of you."
"I'd like to say that this program has not been easy, it's helped me out a lot," Michael said.
After recognizing the graduates, Perigo and Natalie Fischer, supervisor with the Children's Division, recognized Kathi and Roy Stephens, who have served as foster parents for 27 years.
"They've cared for over 550 children in their home, they've purchased over 30 class rings and 15 cars in that time," Fischer said. "I know that no matter what time of the day it is, or night, if I call them for placement, that their answer would be 'sure, bring them on over.'"
Fischer said the Stephens' have also welcomed several children from the Juvenile Drug Court program into their home.
"We feel that Kathi and Roy have been a vital asset in ensuring children are successful and all their goals are met," Fischer said.