A Longview woman with more than five years’ experience working with youngsters in drug and alcohol prevention begins today as executive director of Longview Teen Court.
“I do enjoy working with young people, especially at one of those pivotal points in their lives where they can make good decisions or not good decisions,” NaTusha Howard said.
Howard most recently worked with Partners in Prevention as a prevention specialist, where she organized activities for the Coalition of Drug Free Youth.
Before that, she worked for about five years with the East Texas Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse.
At the organization, she eventually became director of prevention and taught the “minors in possession of tobacco” class.
Longview Teen Court President Misty Ryan said the position had been open since Dec. 1, after the board let go former Executive Director Kimber Lewinksi.
“We needed someone more connected to the community,” Ryan said. “We are trying to get somebody to build up Teen Court, fund raise and reach out to the other agencies we work with.”
She said Howard’s history with working with teens was a big reason why she was hired.
Longview Teen Court is a deferral program in which teenagers charged with a Class C misdemeanor can be tried and serve community service hours to avoid having the crime listed on their records.
Crimes that could land a student in Teen Court include most traffic violations, possession of alcohol, disorderly conduct, trespassing or criminal mischief.
Longview Teen Court, a nonprofit organization founded in 1988, contracts with the city to provide its services.
When teenagers opt into the program, a $40 fee goes to the nonprofit organization. The city provides facilities for the service.
The maximum sentence a violator can receive is 58 hours of community service at an approved location and a requirement to serve three Teen Court jury terms.
About 150 cases are heard by Teen Court each year.
In summer 2013, the organization decided to expand to Kilgore. At the time, Lewinski voiced hopes to reach out to Gilmer, Gladewater, White Oak, Hallsville and Marshall for future expansions.
“I think her game plan is great. I want to continue what she planned on doing,” Howard said. “It is such a vital entity for young people.”