Donna Persson is an active participant in the Orange County Probation Department’s Volunteer in Probation (VIP) program. She has been assigned to the department’s Youth Guidance Center BREAKTHROUGH program since March 5, 2001 and has volunteered more than 1,220 hours. Over the years, Donna has dedicated her time, talents and energy to helping troubled teens redirect their lives by considering their choices and weighing the impact of those choices.
More than 500 volunteers assist the Orange County Probation Department each year by serving with the VIP program. Probation officers and deputy juvenile corrections officers generally work with large caseloads and volunteers play an important role in supporting their efforts. VIPs work in a variety of assignments and assist at five juvenile institutions. The VIP program offers Orange County residents an opportunity to actively engage in reducing the threat posed by convicted criminal offenders.
In 1997, Donna began volunteering as a guest speaker for the BREAKTHROUGH program at Probation’s Youth Guidance Center (YGC). YGC is a juvenile institution that offers substance abuse rehabilitation for minors ranging from 11 through 18 years of age. The facility provides centrally located accommodations to meet the commitment needs of the Juvenile Court. BREAKTHROUGH is a therapeutic community for youth recovering from drug or alcohol addiction. Participation is voluntary and it normally requires from 9 to 12 months for a minor in custody to progress through all residential phases if the program. Deputy probation officers provide intensive supervision of participants for a minimum of six months after their release from YGC.
In 2001 Donna expanded her volunteer involvement by becoming a member the VIP program. As a VIP, she offered to coordinate guest speaker in addition to leading the discussion groups. Over the years, Donna has consistently demonstrated her commitment to the Orange County Probation Department, and her dedication remained strong even when several programs decided to discontinue service at YGC. Rather than consider that option, Donna agreed to continue her presentations and group meetings on a weekly basis.
One of Donna’s most recent accomplishments is the development of a unique program activity for the BREAKTHROUGH residents. It involves instructing the youths in conversing with each other and sharing their personal experiences as they relate to the BREAKTHROUGH program. Initially, the juveniles did not have a clear understanding of the importance of what they were learning; however, through Donna’s hard work, patience and encouragement, the young people are gaining a better understanding if the significance of substance abuse rehabilitation.
Donna epitomizes the importance of volunteer involvement especially in providing guidance and positive role modeling for at-risk youths. She is an exceptional mentor for the BREAKTHROUGH participants and a valuable resource for staff. The Orange County Probation Department is honored to have the support of this very dedicated individual who is an integral part of the VIP team.