Webb was recognized for her work with the Teen Court program in Madison County, which she coordinates, the Step Up For Kids program and other local initiatives.
Also receiving the award was Madison District Court Judge Earl-Ray Neal who earned the honor for his work with the Teen Court program in Clark County, the Truancy Diversion Program in Clark and Madison counties and the Kentucky Mock Trial Program, along with other efforts.
“The prestigious Law Related Education Award honors individuals who are committed to educating youth and professionals about the fundamental principles of the Kentucky Constitution,” said Patrick Yewell, executive officer of the Department of Family and Juvenile Services at the Administrative Office of the Courts.
Teen Court is a program offered by the Kentucky Court of Justice that provides first-time juvenile offenders the opportunity to participate in a less formal court process carried out by their peers. Student volunteers are trained in courtroom roles such as prosecutor, defense attorney, clerk, bailiff and juror.
Teen Court programs operate from September through May to coincide with the school calendar. Although a district judge presides over Teen Court, it is operated almost entirely by teenagers ranging in age from 13 to 17.
“Teen Court uses peer pressure in a positive way for nonviolent juvenile offenders,” said Billy Stover, coordinator for Kentucky Teen Court. “We’ve found that peer pressure in a court of law has a profound impact on a juvenile offender and is very effective at deterring juveniles from committing other crimes.”
This is not the first time Jennifer Webb has made the news. In 2009 she was teaching teenagers the dangers of drugs and alcohol and persuading them to commit to a sober lifestyle as one part of Jennifer her job as Madison County’s Teen Court and Youth In Action coordinator.
When the position of Teen Court coordinator position came open, District Judge Brandy Oliver Brown asked her to assume the responsibility.
“Admittedly, I had no overwhelming desire to work with teenagers,” she said. “I merely considered it an honor to be asked.”
However, an experience made Webb, then 34, see the impact and possibilities of the program.
“One of the teen court defendants came up to me and thanked me for allowing him to participate in Teen Court,” Webb said.
“He said that the experience made him learn the value of making the right choices in life. He expressed a desire to join Teen Court as a student volunteer because he was impressed at the ability of the volunteers and felt that they had treated him fairly.”
From his comments, Webb realized how important Teen Court could be in the life of a teenager.
“All of the effort I put forth is truly worth it when I see kids realize they have the ability to make the right choices.”
As coordinator, she travels to Madison County’s schools recruiting students wanting to participate in the Youth In Action programs. There is a training session before the student is assigned a case.
Monitoring Teen Court defendants making sure they fulfill the recommendations of the Teen Court jury also is a responsibility included in coordinating the program, Webb said.
“Teen Court encourages teens to be leaders in their schools and in the community,” she said. “I encourage the students to become involved with other programs when they are available. The statewide Youth In Action made a presentation at the Teen Court Coordinator training three years ago. I gave the information to the Teen Court volunteers and there were several kids who wanted to start a team.”
Teen Court cases usually include: shoplifting; truancy; theft; criminal mischief; harassment; and other cases deemed appropriate by the judge. The defendants are tried before a teenage jury.
“Throughout my experience working in the court system, I have seen many adults affected with drug and alcohol addictions,” she said. “These addictions lead to devastation not only in their lives, but in the lives of their loved ones.”
Many of those adults took their first drink during their teenage years, she said.
“Youth who begin drinking before the age of 15 are more than five times more likely to become an alcoholic,” she said. “Making teens aware of this information will hopefully prevent them from drinking at an early age. Thus, avoiding having to escape the cycle of addictions when they become adults.
Webb's work as a paralegal for the 25th Judicial District is extensive and ranges from maintaining the court’s calendar to researching statutes and case law.
“By far, my most important job is working with the public and doing my best to be helpful to the citizens and professionals who are involved with district court,” Webb said.
“The caseloads for the dockets are enormous, so it takes all of us to keep it flowing smoothly. For an average citizen, court can be very confusing and intimidating. I try to help people navigate the system so they feel the court is serving them fairly and efficiently, as it should.”Congratulations, Jennifer! You've certainly earned this award.