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.

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.

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