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|May 16, 2011
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Probation's Longest Running Mothers Program Graduates
25th Class At Boston Municipal Court-West Roxbury
|Left to right: BMC-West Roxbury Probation Officer Crystal Young; First Justice Kathleen E. Coffey of BMC-West Roxbury; Associate Justice Maryann Driscoll; Probation Officer Mary Tracey Walsh; Mothers Program graduate Cherry Mazouca; past participant Sherma Stuart. Participants: Raquel Rivera; Assistant Chief Probation Officer Helen Brown; Lena Rodriguez; Jenna Wetzel; and Jocelyn Williams.
At an emotional graduation ceremony, held this week in a courtroom in the West Roxbury division of the Boston Municipal Court, six women probationers spoke of the impact the 12-week Mother's Program has had on their lives. The ceremony marked the 25th class of graduates since the program was introduced 13 years ago.
Speakers, including judges, a state representative, and human service agency representatives, lauded the women for completing the program designed for probationers who are mothers. The program included a surprise visit from a former participant, a graduate more than a dozen years ago, who took time from work to speak to the women about her personal growth as a mother and person after completing the program.
This program has graduated more than 200 women since it was first established in 1998 as part of the Reinventing Justice Program introduced by BMC-West Roxbury First Justice Kathleen Coffey and Assistant Chief Probation Officer Helen Brown.
First Justice Coffey said of the program, "The goals of the Mothers' Program are to reduce recidivism, educate mothers on probation about providing safe and stable homes for their children and provide resources to assist women in meeting the challenges of motherhood."
As part of the program, women probationers ordered to attend as a condition of probation, meet at the courthouse and participate in lectures and interactive sessions on issues that range from substance abuse to employment to parenting to nutrition education. The women's offenses range from assault and battery to larceny to substance abuse charges. Participants have ranged in age from late teens to mid-50's.
Before the ceremony, Program graduate Lena Rodriguez said the Mothers Program has impacted her in ways that no other program has. At 42, she is the elder in her class.
"I am a recovering addict of 18 years with a lot of cases," Rodriguez said. "I have been to many programs and many meetings. I have been in trouble a lot. But this program is something I have never experienced before. It really changed my life. The women in this program get me and I get them."
Through tears she added, "I have never been to a graduation before. Now, I am a good mom, good person, and productive member of society."
Sherma Stuart, one of the first graduates of the program more than 12 years ago, said she still seeks assistance from the program although she completed her probation years ago.
"It has helped me a lot. I never used to speak and completely shut down. I pled guilty for something I never did. I was in a real dark place and now things are better," Stuart said.
State Representative Liz Malia, D-Jamaica Plain told the women and their children, "Your presence here today means that you are leading by example. More people will benefit from these types of programs. This program is worth nurturing and keeping alive."
Associate Justice Mary Ann Driscoll of BMC-West Roxbury encouraged the women to "feel free to use our courthouse as a resource."