Seven honored by diversion program

EDWARDSVILLE — Seven graduates of Madison County’s juvenile diversion program have been honored for following a different path.

In a ceremony Thursday in Madison County Courtroom 351, local miners accepted graduation certificates and heard encouragement from diversion program supporters and volunteers. Rather than face a court-ordered consequence, the seven made a six-month commitment to the program.

Each received a certificate signed by Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Haine, Circuit Judge Amy Maher and Pastor Greg Morrison of Gateway Family Church in Glen Carbon.

“Second chances matter, especially for miners who want to get their lives back on track,” Haine said. “These diversion programs provide an excellent service, guiding these young people to happy, productive, law-abiding lives and careers.

Madison County Assistant State Attorney Cara Tegel has been a volunteer and co-administrator of the program for 12 years. She said the county was lucky to have the juvenile diversion program.

“Through this program, students have the opportunity to make a fresh start,” Tegel said. “But more than that, they learn valuable skills, learn to value themselves and bring value back to our community. It is truly an honor to be a part of the lives of each of our students and their families who have gone through the program over the years.

The Madison County Juvenile Diversion Program was started in 2006 in Collinsville by Tim Stark, Dewayne Love and Odell Mitchell in what is now Navigation Church. The three saw the need to help students who struggled to make healthy choices and created the diversion program to keep young people out of the criminal justice system.

In 2009, program meetings moved to Gateway Family Church in Glen Carbon. In 2015, the reins of program management passed to Tegel, Love, Carol and Greg Morrison. Southern Illinois University’s Edwardsville Criminal Justice Program partnered with the program about six years ago. Under the supervision of Dr. Matthew Petrocelli, an intern each semester helps the program stay current and relevant to its audience.

The program connects participants with approximately 12 community and professional service providers who focus on drinking and driving, alcohol and drug use, positive interaction with law enforcement, managing anger, building healthy relationships, domestic violence prevention, employment, business and financial management, internet safety. , build self-esteem and decision-making and goal-setting skills.

Participants must be involved in community service projects. Referrals to the program come from police departments, school resource officers, the juvenile justice system and parents.

When students complete the program, the referral agency agrees to a dismissal or reduced charges. Hundreds of students have taken the program since 2006.

Tegel shared a success story of a student who became a Fulbright scholar and worked in mental health.

“When I first entered the program, I was abusing different drugs and drinking quite frequently. From an outside perspective, however, I was doing well. I had a job, got my graduated from high school early and had a loving family. The truth was that I was hurt and used substances to help me cope with feelings of depression, anxiety and anger.

“Juvenile Diversion, however, taught me coping mechanisms that I never learned,” the student wrote. “I learned to manage my anger, to open up and to ask for help when I needed it. I learned that sometimes it becomes really necessary to eliminate toxic individuals from your life. Well that I’m not sure (and I try not to think about it) I feel like I probably would have gone to jail if it hadn’t been for the program.”

The program hopes to add diversion program sessions in Alton, Wood River and Granite City over the next three years. For more information, email [email protected] or visit

Ryan H. Bowman