Staff Spotlight: Celebrating Those Who Go Above and Beyond

There have been dozens of examples of staff members at OYA going above and beyond in recent weeks.

(Above photo credit: Courtney Hedger, Unsplash)

With the myriad challenges that accompanied the regulations surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, many staff members at Oregon Youth Authority have stepped up and shown what it means to make a difference in the lives of their colleagues and the youth in the agency’s care.

OYA celebrates National Correctional Employees Week and Public Service Recognition Week the first full week in May. The following links are messages to staff from OYA Director Joe O’Leary and Deputy Director Nakeia Daniels:

Facility Employee Appreciation Week

Celebrating Public Service Recognition Week

Although the State of Oregon’s celebrations to honor public employees have been postponed, OYA is still recognizing the following employees:

Commitment to Public Service

Kris Scrabeck, community resources manager: Long-serving employee (30+ years of state service)

Kris Scrabeck manages foster care, BRS programs, and youth benefits, but in her heart is absolutely focused on youth. Kris brings her whole self to this job. OYA is truly fortunate to have a leader like Kris, who is as connected to the people she works with as she is to the people she works for.

Jeff Graeme, human resources analyst: New to state service (1-2 years)

Jeff Graeme has only been with OYA for 2 1/2 years, but he has already made a huge impact in our workplace by promoting positivity through the outstanding relationships he has built with those he serves. During the pandemic, Jeff has been reassigned to the Emergency Communications Center (ECC) to represent OYA and take part in the broader State of Oregon official COVID-19 response effort. Jeff’s representation at the ECC provides an opportunity to collaborate with responders across the state and ensure that our youth and staff have the necessary emergency personal protective equipment.

Ambassadors of Public Service

Ken Jerin, superintendent, Rogue Valley Youth Correctional Facility

Ken Jerin is unique in his ability to anticipate the need for change and be the first to press into a new approach, direction, or effort the agency is moving towards. Ken has recently taken the lead in implementing restorative justice practices into the Rogue Valley culture in addition to the Positive Human Development implementation. It is remarkable that he was willing to take on both efforts and has executed these seamlessly, connecting the two projects in such a way that the positive results are startling. The facility’s data over the last two years has shown an incredible decrease in violence and all indicators of a positive culture have significantly improved. Ken will tell you that it is the great leadership team that makes this possible. He is right, but it is also the courage of a fearless leader and the stability of his quiet confidence that makes it possible.

Lance Schnacker, senior research analyst

Lance is a powerful change agent within the Oregon Youth Authority, who continuously works to improve the lives of the youth in our care. His passion for improving outcomes for our youth extends beyond his office desk, and he mentors a youth currently living at the Oak Creek Youth Correctional Facility. Lance is an exceptional employee who works tirelessly to ensure OYA staff are provided with the best data and research as possible when making time-sensitive decisions.

Sue Elder, registered nurse in OYA facilities

Nurse Sue Elder, the intake nurse at MacLaren YCF, goes above and beyond to track down medical records from the community to ensure there is continuity of health care services for the youth. Her workplace is fast-paced and the workload is heavy. When the workload is the heaviest, she encourages other staff with words of support and encouragement and expresses no negativity. She is well-respected by the team as well as staff in other departments.

Thank You Video To Frontline Workers

We made a video to show how incredibly thankful we are for our frontline staff. Only a select number of staff are pictured in the video, but they represent of all of our amazing OYA family:

Staff Shout-Outs

We asked staff to nominate their co-workers who have gone above and beyond their normal job duties during this time. We plan to spotlight one work site a week to give examples of teamwork in action and to recognize those who have gone above and beyond their regular work duties.

Eastern Oregon YCF

  • Trent Batie, GLC 2: Trent and his wife Kati made 50 facial coverings for all the staff at EOYCF. They were made to size with individuals in mind. He also made mask clips on his 3D printer so everyone could adjust the facial coverings to fit. This was such a kind and generous thing to do and we are so appreciative.
  • Bruce Voges, case coordinator: He has dedicated his life to this career and it shows. He is an innovator in the sports programs and has elevated the youth with his ethics, rapport, and never-ending drive to change the lives of the young men he comes in contact with. He gives his all and doesn’t complain about it ever, even in these hard times.
  • Rob D’Angelo and Randy Rictor, GLC 2s: They have done an amazing job preparing our medical isolation unit and organizing the staff and youth personal protective equipment.
  • Jean Jacquard and Amber Whittley, GLC 2s: Jean and Amber personify consistency in their approach while maintaining positive and helpful relationships with youth. Both are fierce advocates for youth while setting clear and unwavering expectations that the youth can count on. Their nomination said, “I truly appreciate them for setting (and maintaining) the standard for others to strive for!”
  • The entire treatment team: They have done an amazing job of keeping youth on track with treatment throughout this time. The youth have averaged 9.7 hours of treatment a month for the last three months. In the month of April, 18 youth completed treatment programs.

MacLaren YCF

MacLaren YCF staff member Annabelle Watts wanted to recognize Christopher Loya and Daniel Elliott.

All three have been working in the facility’s quarantine and medical isolation areas. When a youth had to miss his graduation ceremony due to being quarantined, Christopher and Daniel stepped up to help. Annabelle wrote:

“(They) immediately came up with the idea to create a mock graduation ceremony for the youth. Graduation music was played, a diploma was crafted, his peers and staff on the other COVID unit were his cheering audience, and a pizza party ensued to celebrate his achievements. SDC Elliott was able to capture the experience on his work phone so that the youth’s family had an opportunity to witness this very important milestone and achievement in his life.

“Loya and Elliott … consistently go above and beyond not only for our youth but staff as well. They do so by building community through creative learning opportunities they come up with, boosting morale with their humor and kindness, and establishing strong, trusted and meaningful rapport with the youth they work with while also holding them accountable — a hard feat to do!”

Other shout-outs to MacLaren staff:

  • Staff who volunteered to work in medical isolation and medical recovery units with youth that were symptomatic or tested positive for COVID-19: These staff should receive the highest recognition because they volunteered for the duty. Not only did these staff take seriously their designation as an essential employee, they’ve shown a level of dedication and commitment that should be honored.
  • MacLaren administrative team: They have gone above and beyond and get very little appreciation. Please give them the recognition they deserve.
  • Nutrition Services: They’ve had many barriers to overcome and still have managed to prepare and deliver meals, as well as fulfill special requests. They are amazing!
  • Judi Wick, nurse: She has been extraordinary in helping many co-workers transition to working remotely. Navigating all of the details around the technology needs, coordinating the schedules of multiple people for appointments, and training providers in the process has been a huge undertaking, particularly as she continues to fulfill her typical responsibilities in the clinic. Judi has been incredibly patient and helpful, and has been key to ensuring the mental health needs of youth are being met during the pandemic.
  • Christina Hernandez, case coordinator: She is helping facilitate Zoom classes with the teachers throughout the week, providing many Skype calls so youth can connect with their families, offering to help with unit groups, and much more. This is in addition to the many duties that her case coordinator position entails, and all while keeping a positive attitude.
  • Rolando Contreras, Danny Elliott, Megan Hukari, Chance Just, Chaan Saechao, and Rob Sweitzer, MacLaren’s SDCs: They have continuously offered additional support with maintaining family engagement services for youth. The youth, families, and staff really appreciate the extra support here, especially with the temporary closure of the visiting center. They are really doing great work all around.
  • Rafael Zuniga, living unit manager for the Intervention Unit (IU) and the whole IU team: Rafael is an outstanding leader. Every single time a youth is temporarily re-assigned to IU, Rafael takes the time to come to the unit to follow up with that individual once he has returned to the unit. The effort alone is invaluable on many levels. The entire team deserves recognition for all of their continuous efforts and support with both staff and youth.
  • Andre Lockett, operations policy analyst 3: He is such a humble person, always welcoming, proactive, and solution-oriented.

Community Resources Staff

  • Juvenile Parole and Probation Assistants (JPPAs): They have done an amazing job keeping youth moving, running field offices, and transporting personal protective equipment and other supplies at all hours to and from facilities, residential programs and offices around the state. They volunteered for an N95 mask fitting and training in case they would have to transport a youth suspected or known to have COVID-19. Some JPPAs were specifically called out by their teams (and we suspect these descriptions match all our JPPAs):
    • Pearre Bones, Malheur Office: He has been ensuring that the needs of everyone in the office are being met and that the office and vehicles are properly cleaned. He doesn’t hesitate to help out or do anything he’s asked. He is a “one call does it all” colleague.
    • Henry Crawford, Marion Office: He’s been doing most of our transports, intakes and all essential driving business. Henry is awesome and will be a great PO someday soon.
    • Eddie Hernandez, Northwest Region: Eddie has consistently been our “go-to” during this time. He has done many transports and has been willing to run errands to pick up cleaning supplies, face coverings and such. He’s been transporting youth and taking care of other important tasks, allowing JPPOs to work from home.
    • Ian Rigterink, Clackamas Office: Ian always has a positive attitude and goes above and beyond on a daily basis. He’s been assisting with transports with our office, helping with other transports throughout the North Valley, and getting out-of-state runaways returned. He even stood in line at Costco and transported the purchased supplies to offices and programs.
  • Luann Dallison, juvenile parole/probation officer (JPPO), Yamhill/Linn Office: Luann, who has put in over 30 years of service with OYA, retired Friday. The pandemic is a difficult time to retire, without the in-person farewells and encouragement from youth and from work colleagues. But Luann has made the most of her final weeks with OYA, continuing to keep in contact with her youth via phone and Skype and advocating for their safety and well-being. Away from work, she has volunteered with local food banks and supports her community.
  • Rick Hayden, JPPO, Lincoln/Linn Office: Rick retired Friday after 33 years with the state. For many of those years, he was the only JPPO in Lincoln County. Working back in the Linn County office this past year, he has jumped in to help out with extra transports. He has enjoyed his time with OYA, working with youth and families. “We all appreciate his years of service and dedication,” wrote field supervisor Tara Williams. “He will be missed but we are happy to see him go on to new adventures to include lots of fishing and hopefully more traveling when that’s allowed again.”
  • Zak Spiegel, JPPO in Linn County, and Laura Ward, diversion specialist: A special thanks to these two, as they were representatives for OYA at the Emergency Communications Center.
  • Rigoberto Garcia, JPPO, Washington County: Rigo has made unique efforts to reach out to several high-risk youth on his caseload who need interventions to stay engaged. While maintaining physical distance, he has visited with them and even worked out with them.
  • Jennifer Gutierrez, OS2, Jackson County: She has been covering four counties in recent weeks, helping out a colleague. Jennifer has been working very hard and learning multiple counties’ practices. She has had a great attitude and has been supportive to the Southern Region offices while teaching her two children at home.
  • Marion Office Team: They continue to always put the youth and families on their caseload first. Each individual in the office deserves recognition.
  • Renee Hernandez and Heidi Lung, JPPOs; and Mary Hunter, OS2: Renee gave a suggestion at a unit check-in about recognizing all the graduates from the Marion office’s caseloads. The entire unit got behind this idea! Renee, Heidi and Mary put in the work to design and develop the certificates. All certificates have been signed and delivered to the youth along with a gift card. 
  • Additionally, Mary has worked hard to ensure the Marion JPPOs have the support they need. With JPPOs working from home, getting all the paperwork and movements done have been difficult. But Mary has made this process less of a headache for everyone. She’s also worked hard to make sure the office and cars have the proper PPE and cleaning equipment.
  • AJ Gosney, JPPO, Marion: He donated pizzas to the Project 180 residential program.
  • Funaki Letisi, JPPO: He has kept everything light, making everyone laugh with his great personality.
  • Chris Jensen, foster care certifier; Ardell Bailey, community resource specialist; and Emilly Charles, OS2: These three were assigned to coordinate statewide COVID supplies for the field and get supplies to foster parents and community programs. There have been many heartwarming stories of how appreciative people have been on receiving even some of the most basic cleaning supplies. Thanks to them for all the work that has been put into this project and the lives, homes, and programs that OYA has impacted during these difficult times.
  • Additionally, Emilly has gone above and beyond by doing printings and mailings for foster care certifiers. This isn’t expected of her but is much appreciated!
  • Monica Moran, community resource specialist: She recently volunteered to be a panel member for Queer Town Hall through Basic Rights Oregon to share how OYA youth are faring during the pandemic. She did an amazing job representing OYA!

Oak Creek and YWTP

A few staff members pointed out how everyone at the facility has pitched in, whether it was bringing in handwashing stations, pushing the importance of good hygiene, or simply listening to the youth upset about not seeing family. One wrote that everyone has done “a stellar job during this pandemic. To single out anyone would be wrong. All have gone above and beyond!”

  • Cindy Fetterman, GLC 2: She has made hundreds of masks for the facility’s staff and even went as far as sewing custom-sized ones to fit staff’s children, asking for nothing in return. The youth on Cedar Unit have started turning to her more often for check-ins when they’re stressed out.
  • Mike Riggan, Superintendent: Mike is a leader who practices what he preaches. He has worked hard to ensure youth and staff have everything they need to be safe and still function. He has been willing to listen to staff about how to make this work. His humor and style were big factors in getting the staff and youth on board with safety precautions.
  • Jazmine Morris Edwards and Amie Zimmerman, OS2s: These women have supported the entire campus as they have been the only admin staff on site. Parole and intakes still occur like clockwork despite the increase in their workload. All of this effort has been done with a smile. An extra shout-out to Jazmine for doing this while going to Oregon State full-time!
  • Angie Weitman, GLC 2/Admin: She has done an outstanding job not only organizing the facility’s Amazon wish list, but also finding ways to keep the youth engaged, including games, arts and crafts projects, and tournaments. The activities she was able to create were exciting for the youth as well the staff, adding some fun and joy into this difficult season.
  • Drew Reynolds, assistant security manager: Drew organized barbecues for the facility, keeping in mind the need for physical distancing and following the protocols to prevent units from mixing.
  • Nick Pearce and Kevin Nelson, case coordinators: They have gone above and beyond keeping youth connected to their families during this trying time, something that has taken a huge chunk of their time. Yet they still have managed to be in charge of MDTs and case plans, calm parents’ fears, and still be available to staff and youth.
  • Brenda Frontino, living unit manager: She has gone above and beyond to help her unit, including on the weekends. She has also been a good guide to staff on dealing with overpopulation then adding the coronavirus on top of it. She is always willing to drop what she is doing to work with floor staff and cover them when needed.
  • Katherine Bonilla-Ulep, GLC2: She has filled in as the YWTP counselor these past few months.  It is tough enough to learn a new job, but to learn a new job and perform so well during a pandemic is pretty remarkable.
  • Zach “Xena” Peterson, GLC2: While recovering from an injury, he has offered telephone support to youth on his living unit to help them de-escalate and to just encourage kids to be well.  He receives youth communication forms every day, asking for a call and check-in. He also has stepped in as the facility’s grievance coordinator.
  • Trevor Pittman, Lisa Johnson, Tracy Merriam, and Eleni Ruzicka, QMHPs: They have gone above and beyond to help youth cope with the additional stress brought on by the consequences of the pandemic.
  • Roger Snell, VESOY Coordinator: He has supported the heavy equipment operations certification program and horticulture programs that have been happening in conjunction with the school.
  • Dustin Sparks, GLC 2: He goes above and beyond with making the youth laugh. He brings positivity, laughter, and good energy during these hard times.
  • Wyatt Mann, living unit manager: He is always willing to help. His communication with the facility has gone above and beyond lately.
  • Rosa Howard Mumford, security manager: She is a rock for the facility. She is there every second of every minute for the people that work at Oak Creek. She is looking out for everyone else 100% of the time.
  • Older youth serving as teaching assistants: They’ve been keeping school going by giving boots-on-the-ground help and support to all students.
  • Food Services and Health Services: They have kept everyone fed and healthy!

Central Office

  • Dr. Marcia Adams and the Health Services team: With so many people from different areas contributing to our positive response to the pandemic, the common denominator in it all has been Health Services at the front lines. Dr. Adams’ tireless leadership and wise, knowledgeable guidance has been exceptional.
  • Paul Ehenger and the Physical Plant Operations team: This team provided personal protective equipment and arranged for the required medical evaluations and fit testing. They also set up the physical configuration of the medical isolation rooms at facilities, including modifying HVAC systems to ensure they were not shared with other units, sanitizing spaces and providing air scrubbers. They built safe places for youth to either ride out exposure to COVID-19 or to get well.
  • Winifred Skinner, Rules & Policy Coordinator: Winifred jumped into the challenge of being the agency’s pandemic coordinator feet first and with no hesitation. No matter how many different things Winifred takes on, her skills to coordinate, facilitate, organize, follow through, and to keep everyone on task amaze and surpass any expectation. No task is too big, too small, too complicated, or too complex.
  • The Communications team: Their around-the-clock efforts ensure we are keeping all the ships moving in the same direction. “I can’t thank them enough for the clarity and perspective they bring to the work. Without their efforts, we certainly wouldn’t be in the place we are with each other, staff, providers, and the communities we serve.”
  • The Information Services team: IS has been able to shift our office workforce to telecommuting seemingly overnight. This was because Steven Hoffert insisted that they be prepared to handle emergencies long before the pandemic. A couple other members of the team were specifically mentioned:
    • Peter Rozov has been in the office every day to assist staff with their computer and mobile phone issues and has been key in getting laptops ready for staff that started working from home.
    • Carlos Garcia has made several visits to YWTP/Oak Creek YCF and Tillamook YCF to make sure Skype for Business youth kiosks are set up and operational for family visits.
    • Amber Forster and the Financial Services team: Even though they’re working remotely and without typical resources, this team has kept things moving, including building the budget, preparing emergency procurements, working on grant submissions, paying bills, and issuing paychecks.
    • Michelle Johnson and Human Resources: The HR team shifted their work focus by more than 80% to provide training and support to the managers who had to implement all the workforce changes related to COVID-19. They’ve kept a kind and developmental approach in their interactions. They also sent Jeff Graeme to represent us at Emergency Communications Center.
    • Payroll and JJIS teams: When Payroll requested several new OTIS pay/leave codes related to COVID-19, Brian Fahey and Jenelle Duhamel worked to quickly get these codes developed, tested, and implemented.
    • Nina Belli, deputy compact administrator for Interstate Compact for Juveniles: Despite the pandemic, she has been just as busy as ever. She continues to coordinate multiple ICJ cases, including two out-of-state transports in a week for one county alone.
    • Community Resources Unit: They are seeing to the needs of the residential providers and foster homes so that OYA youth are safe and cared for, wherever they are.
    • Anna Hargens, OS2, Development Services: Anna has been at work every day to answer phones, accept deliveries, and distribute mail, among other tasks.
    • Development Services team: This team has provided great guidance throughout the pandemic, demonstrating a good example of leading with our values and keeping Positive Human Development at the center of all we do.

Rogue Valley YCF

Kim and Robin masks

Robin Gilbert (left) and Kim Simmons display some of the 200-plus face coverings they made for every youth and staff member at Rogue Valley Youth Correctional Facility.

  • Robin Gilbert and Kim Simmons, GLC 2s: In a short amount of time, Robin and Kim used their skills with the sewing machine and the help of some youth to make more than 200 face coverings for all staff and youth in the facility. “They spent more than half of the time at home making them on their own to get this done. That’s the above and beyond part we really appreciate,” Superintendent Ken Jerin said. Jessica Koepp added: “They both display leadership. I see them both as great female mentors in the correctional world. They both display that ‘tough cookie’ exterior but you know they would do anything for anyone at the drop of a hat.”
  • Natalia Laird, OS2: Natalia was instrumental in a recent Mother’s Day project. Youth filled out cards to send to their moms, a youth photographer took each youth’s photo, and Natalia printed all of these off and mailed them to the youths’ mothers. “Natalia is always willing to help with any project.” She also has made fun signs that have been posted throughout the facility.
  • Ken Jerin, Superintendent: Ken has spent a tremendous amount of time and energy going above and beyond his regular duties. Not only did he Skype in to work while he was out sick, but he has been paying close attention to staffing numbers, overseeing medical isolation logistics, putting together meeting agendas, addressing budget issues, ensuring compliance with state and agency expectations, and so much more.
  • Jason Carrick, GLC 2: Jason has kept the facility’s pandemic supplies fully stocked. He went the extra mile with vendors to get cleaners, sanitizers, and protective jumpsuits.
  • Jonathan Allaire, GLC 2: Jonathan set up Rogue Valley’s medical isolation area. He took the extra time to ensure it would be a supplied and well-run unit when needed.
  • Randy Guisinger, Program Director: Randy has been working with population management on the difficult process of screening 15 new intake youth in just one month.

Tillamook Campus


Camp Tillamook Assistant Director Dean Jones (left) is one of a number of staffers at the Tillamook campus who have been highlighted by their colleagues for going above and beyond their job duties recently.

“I’m very proud to be a member of this team, from the camp director to our wonderful maintenance staff, (everything has been) smooth and professional,” Diana Strong, Camp Tillamook

  • Marty Boge, general maintenance mechanic, who quickly created a safe environmental space for the medical isolation area at Tillamook. Marty is known as the person to count on to consistently care for the facilities and staff.
  • Kathryn Rawson, Tillamook’s nurse, was a constant and reliable resource during the days following a positive COVID-19 case that affected the facility. She did this while maintaining a cheerful and positive attitude.
  • Dean Jones, assistant director of Camp Tillamook: With the QMHP and case coordinator working off site, Dean has had to not only do his job but many elements of theirs as well, including printing, scanning, sending notes, and setting up every Skype call for MDT and treatment meetings. Dean has never complained once, even when some of the schedules went over or changed.
  • GLC 2s at Camp Tillamook: They are splitting shifts and working doubles, taking the load of the hours off the at-risk staff who are home. They are “truly the best of the best.”
  • Jeff Rogers and Steve Bodine have gone above and beyond their normal GLC duties by helping youth continue their projects in the woodshop, despite the absence of the Trask High School teachers. Keeping the youth engaged in educational opportunities and staying focused on building skills demonstrates the commitment to the youth and their development.
  1. Yay Nurse Sue! She’s an INCREDIBLE resource when youth parole out to community programs!

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