Scott named ‘Friend of the Year’
Franklin County’s Chief Juvenile Probation Officer Sylvester Scott has been a supporter of the Special Programming for Achievement Network (S.P.A.N.) program of Franklin County since it first started in the 1990s, so even though he was shocked to be named as the program’s “Friend of the Year,” it came as no surprise to anyone else.
Remona Roberson, program coordinator of S.P.A.N. in Franklin County, said the relationship between the juvenile probation office and her program is vital since the students who are involved in S.P.A.N. are referred by the court system.
“Sylvester has been very easy to work with over the years and he is always willing to help us in any way he can,” Roberson said.
“You can tell he wants the best for these students and he tries to make sure they have access to the best resources that will help them get back on the right track.”
Scott, who has plans to retire this spring, first became a juvenile probation officer in 1989 and became the chief juvenile probation officer in 1992 and has worked in that capacity ever since.
He said that he knew he wanted to have a career as a probation officer and the juvenile side of things just seemed like a better fit for him.
“I’ve always enjoyed working with kids, especially with the Little League in Phil Campbell,” he said. “I began to notice that the kids who were involved in extracurricular activities seemed to stay out of trouble, but not all the kids had parents that would help them get involved.
“Kids need a good dose of discipline but they also need a good dose of love and somebody who cares about their well-being.
“I knew as a juvenile probation officer, I could provide that for kids who didn’t get it from anywhere else.”
Scott said his job isn’t always easy, especially when he has to administer the tough love a lot of the children in the juvenile system need.
“Sometimes it gets discouraging seeing the same kids coming through here, but there are rewards to this job, too,” he said.
“About three months ago I was downstairs in the courthouse and I saw one of my former probationers. He told me he knew I was tough on him but that was probably what saved his life.
“Things like that are what keep you going. It’s what makes this job worth it – knowing you’ve made a difference in some kid’s life.”
Unlike with adult probation, juvenile probationers who are under supervision “age out” when they reach 21, but Scott said instead of just getting the juvenile through the court system until he or she becomes someone else’s problem, he’s really tried to teach the probationers in Franklin County the value of a good work ethic and making something out of themselves.
“Many of these kids are just a product of their environment,” he said. “If I had been raised without the structure and discipline my parents had, I could have easily turned out like these kids, too.
“We try to emphasize getting a part-time job so they will have a productive way to fill their time. This is where the S.P.A.N. Program is so helpful, too.
“The S.P.A.N. Program gives them a way to either re-enter the school system, get their GED or find employment and that is really our ultimate goal – to get them back on the path they need to be on so they can be productive and successful.”
Scott said he’ll miss the kids the most once he retires, and he’ll miss the working relationships he has with many people, including those at the S.P.A.N. Program.
“The S.P.A.N. Program has been one of the greatest additions to the juvenile court system, and I see all the time how it really does help these kids,” Scott said.
“I’m honored to be their Friend of the Year and I’ll continue to support the program in the years to come.”