Eight area teens received Better Choices Awards in a ceremony held on Friday in the Division 1 courtroom in the Newton County Judicial Center.

Eight area teens received Better Choices Awards in a ceremony held on Friday in the Division 1 courtroom in the Newton County Judicial Center.
The Better Choices Awards were established in 2000 by Perigo.
"It's a good day," Perigo told the teens and family members gathered for the awards ceremony. "We're here to celebrate some achievements by these young ladies and gentlemen. Back before you all were born and (when) your parents were in school, I happened to be the prosecuting attorney and I noticed several tragic events where young people made just one mistake, one bad choice and went into the Department of Corrections, some for their entire life. Some of those from the 1980s are still in the Department of Corrections. Then, it was highlighted more when I became a judge, sentencing people, and people would say they just made a bad choice."
Perigo explained the origin of the Better Choices Award.
"In the 1990s, an attorney was in a seminar in Florida and returned, telling me that a judge had recognized some young individuals who made better decisions. I liked that idea so we created a program. We didn't have a name for it that first year we did it. The students who were being honored had a contest and one of them came up with the name, Better Choices, so we adopted that."
Perigo explained that five or six years ago, the Drug Court started a committee called Advocating Better Choices (ABC). "They heard about the program we were doing and asking if they could adopt it."
The ABC group did. Alissa Hendricks, chairman of ABC and the Newton County Treatment Court Administrator II explained ABC's focus. "ABC is a community member driven team," she said on Friday. "We care about kids in our community. THat's really very simple. So we just love advocating for youth in our community, especially those who make better choices in their lives."
The students who received a Better Choices Award were Ariaunna Hoover, Seneca High Schoo, Sergio Lopez, Neosho ACE program, May Lee Hawley, Jefferson Street Campus, Neosho, Joseph Stewart, Tri-Way Junior High School, Sebastian Alpizar, Brandon Calderon Garcia, and Sam Gothard, McDonald County High School, and James Tucker, Diamond High School. Six of the either were present for the event along with the representative from their school that nominated them for the award.
Each student received a certificate and a gift card. School representatives introduced each young person and detailed the better choices each has made to earn recognition.
"We want to celebrate these young people, who through whatever avenues, have been nominated because of the choices they make in their life," Hendricks said.
A reception was held for the honorees and their families following the ceremony.
"We all have one thing in common," Perigo said. "When we wake up in the morning, we all have choices we made. We all make choices everyday. You decided to make a good choice. Maybe in the past they weren't in the best path but hey made some good choices. So we're here to recognize them and that's why it's a good day.