It’s an assignment that many wouldn’t feel patient or thick-skinned enough to accept. But being FYI’s Mentoring Program Coordinator at the Clark County Juvenile Detention Center (JDC) fits Chet Roberts perfectly.
“If I didn't go into the Navy, I would have ended up in jail,” he admitted. “I could easily be where these young men are; I was just luckier.”
Chet was referring to the troubled but potential-filled teens at the JDC, where he has made an immediate impact during his first few months of service. He meets with, trains and mentors several teens who are already at a critical crossroads in their lives … where the next bad decision could send their life careening onto a very destructive and sometimes deadly path.
Chet said he had a strong, loving mom and grandma but little fatherly influence while growing up in Park Layne, Fairborn and Trotwood. So when he gained more freedom as a teenager, he admitted not making many good choices.
“I wasn’t good at school, didn’t focus and most of the time was running the streets,” Chet said. “I was a knucklehead.”
Serving four years in the Navy turned out to be one of the few good decisions he had made.
The difference, Chet said, was his family’s stress on education. He used his military benefits to earn a bachelor's degree in Christian studies at Grand Canyon University and spent some time in seminary at Earlham University. He felt his natural “people skills” would make him a good chaplain.
Still, nothing materialized as he’d hoped. So he “started from ground zero,” working at New Carlisle Sports & Fitness until he ran into Mentoring Program Co-Director Julie Driskill.
“I’ve been waiting for the next door to open, to see where God wanted to use me,” Chet recalled. Little did he know that that “next door” was literally next door - at FYI’s office.
“I was excited to use my gifts and experience to be to others what I needed at that age, or at least try.
“I needed encouragement, somebody to tell me that I could (be a success),” he continued. “I needed consistency, just someone to show me what some of the options were. I needed guidance other than what my peers and community were telling me at the time.”
He eventually found his way, after many struggles - just in time to serve those at the JDC.
“The biggest gift that I have for them is that I essentially have been there,” he said. “At their age, those were my friends. I go in there knowing they are good people. I can treat them with respect and confidence, and relate to them as a peer.”
That breaks down walls … even in a detention center!
“The first day I was at the JDC, I knew immediately that I could easily build rapport,” Chet said. “Just in the respect that they give back to me, it has been so rewarding. They are kids in the process of being hardened. But they are kids first … period,” he said. “Every kid has the potential to choose a different path, and unfortunately for many of them they don’t know there are other paths. They don't have the confidence, the cheerleaders, the support, the elders that others have to create that community of support.”
That confirms to Chet that he has finally arrived where God wants him to be.
“Everyday I walk out of there, I know that I am in the right place,” he said. “I know I am utilizing my gifts and experience in a way that may have some impact.”
So yes, this job fits Chet like a glove.
If you would like to volunteer to help “create that community of support” in any part of our Mentoring Program, or support work here at FYI, call (937) 845-0403.