The State of NJJA

By: Jim Bennett – Board President

In 2011, I was invited to be a member of the Nebraska Juvenile Justice Association (NJJA). At that time, NJJA was known for putting on a first-rate juvenile justice conference that I had been attending for many years. I was welcomed on the board by a diverse group of professionals that were passionate about improving the lives of youth in Nebraska and were dedicated to improving the knowledge and skill-base of juvenile justice professionals in our great state. Fast forward to the present and I can say that those same attributes exist today in NJJA, yet much has changed and evolved over these short six years.

For the past three and a half years, NJJA has been led by a long time leader and advocate for youth in Nebraska, Tom McBride. Tom came to NJJA just months into his retirement deciding that maybe he still had work to do. Under Tom’s leadership, NJJA has grown and changed to meet the needs of the juvenile justice system in Nebraska. During the 2014 preparation for the NJJA strategic planning session, Paul J. Strawhecker, Inc. conducted an environmental scan of juvenile justice stakeholders across the state and the feedback was clear. Professionals in the state wanted NJJA to expand its reach across the state through providing more educational opportunities and by serving as a hub of information and best practice in juvenile justice.

Through the generosity of the Sherwood Foundation, NJJA had been able to hire two very talented communications coordinators Kelly Engquist and Sarah Frankel. Through their expertise we have built a website juvenile justice professionals can use to access the latest information and news, we have developed a webinar series that continues to grow and remains archived as a resource to the state, and they have developed a social media presence to create new avenues by which to communicate and share ideas.

In order to grow and evolve in a way that supports the work being done in Nebraska we have had to listen to all of you. Through feedback from the annual conference, comments from the website, and through countless conversations we have gleaned what is needed. In 2018 we will be offering more one-day educational opportunities, we are developing a video series that provides an overview of the history of juvenile justice in Nebraska and outlines different components of the system Nebraska has in place, we will be increasing content on the website and enhancing our newsletter. These enhancements and this direction is directly related to suggestions made by you.

As we near the end of 2017 I am energized by the passion and enthusiasm of the juvenile justice professionals in Nebraska and I am excited about the potential NJJA is showing and the direction that NJJA is going. NJJA remains committed to you and to the development of youth in Nebraska.