Initially the brainchild of former Pahranagat Valley educator Roberta Hess Park, it was quickly moved under the direction of the Sheriff Department and Captain Gary Davis, along with former District Attorney Phil Dunleavy.
The program is now conducted in two phases: part one in the fall and part two in the spring.
Deputy Derek Foremaster explained what was done Dec. 3 was to have all the seniors, about 40-45 in number, gather at the County Detention Center in Pioche for a tour of the facility, and then a session at the Pioche Fire Station where the District Attorney spoke. A couple of the Detention Center inmates are also selected to speak of their experiences, and then a time for questions and answers, pizza and light refreshments.
Foremaster said the concept of the program is to explain to the seniors, who will turn 18 either before the end of the school year, or shortly thereafter, that once you are 18, you are considered an adult and can be prosecuted by law enforcement, if necessary, as an adult.
“Mama and Dad can’t help you the way they used to be able,” Foremaster said. One day you are 17 and the next day you are an adult, and the choices you make need to be thought out clearly if it might infringe on certain laws of society.
He explained the program is intending to educate and show the students, “the changes they are going to be facing in the judicial system. A slap on the hand at 17 in juvenile court, at 18, you may be going to jail for the same offense. When you make a mistake of the law at 18, you’re going to be treated like an adult, so be careful not to make those choices.”
Foremaster said the inmates who speak to the students at the Fire station talk about “the struggles, choices and mistakes they have made that have led to their being where they are now.” He explained, “I think it’s an eye opener when the kids see some inmates talking about how they have been in prison, in jail, some have families, some don’t. They share their personal stories, which is good.”
District Attorney Daniel Hooge talked about the differences in the law between being viewed as a juvenile as opposed to an adult.
Foremaster said it is also a good opportunity to suggest some career options for any who might be interested in a career in law enforcement.
Phase Two of the program is in the spring, as the seniors are nearing graduation. “We go to the Clark County Coroner’s office in Las Vegas for a tour of the facility where they get a pretty good look at what goes on there,” he said. “That hits pretty hard with the consequences of where really bad choices can end up: on a slab in the morgue. They have a little presentation there showing the students about the bad choices some of the victims they see have made. Remember to buckle up, don’t drink and drive, don’t speed or street race, etc. Now that you are going out on your own, make those smart decisions, you’re not going to have your mom and dad giving you a curfew and telling what and what not to do. You have to make sure you are going to be responsible,” Foremaster added.
The seniors also go over the Nevada Highway Patrol headquarters in Las Vegas for a tour there. “It’s kind a career builder there too,” he said, “for anyone who might be interested.”
He added, “We want to let the seniors know that the world is out there, and they really don’t have it by the tail. There are lots of temptations, be careful with what you do. If we can make this an eye opener for them, then we have accomplished our task.”
The Now You’re 18 program is something used primarily in Lincoln County. Other parts of the state may have similar programs, but may be run somewhat differently. In Clark County, Foremaster said, “they have so many seniors, it would be near impossible to do the same kind of program we do. Here in Lincoln County, the schools are very supportive of it. Where we only have 40-50, maybe 60 seniors each year, we can afford to make a little more of an effort to get our point across.”