Mildred Ploss graduated in December, 2012 from Athens State University with a B.S. in behavioral science, and her minor was criminal justice. She graduated magna cum laude with a GPA that was tipping toward 4.0. I watched her “walk” at graduation, and gave her a bear hug because I was so proud of her. You see, Mildred went to college beginning at the age of 55, and her goal was to help kids, especially those who were in trouble. However, it is the “back story” that will make you smile. With a candor that is “thoroughly Milly,” she says, “My goal was to help kids, pretty much because I had made such a mess of my own kids’ lives.”
This woman knows about second chances, as do I, and I think that is one of the things that makes her so delightful. She is one of the most transparent people I have ever known, has a dry, quirky sense of humor, a laugh that fills the room, and if I were a kid who had been ordered to do community service by the courts, I’d want Mildred to be the one to whom I had to answer. However, please understand, the School of Hard Knocks, which she attended before she graduated from ASU has made her one tough cookie, and Jesus has also made her tender.
Her official title is Director of the Juvenile Community Service Program. Her office is right next to the E.M.A. building on Hines, and her joy is to find business owners who have a heart to be a fair and firm accountability partner in the lives of kids who have gotten into trouble. “I’d be here all the time if I could,” she told me, and her hours are limited by the grant funds made available for the project. The kids vary greatly in age and temperament. The youngest child in her case load has been twelve years old, and the oldest eighteen.
“Many of the cases are truancy,” she told me, “and we don’t deal with violent offenders.” Mildred contacts various area businesses, does her best to determine if they are a good match for the child, takes the sponsor through the necessary paperwork, and when the job is completed, she follows up with both the child and the business for the proverbial “after action report.”
The program has been quite successful, with many kids jumping right in and working like crazy. Some kids, however, need more “tough love,” and sometimes a kid and the business owner just are not a good fit for each other. It’s Mildred’s job to get to the bottom of the problem and solve it, either by an “attitude adjustment” pep talk, or transferring them to a different situation.
There is little that is so fun to observe as a person who has found their “niche” and is flourishing in it, and it is my great pleasure to commend Miss Mildred and her office to the people of Athens-Limestone who need her new life born out of a second chance. If you are interested in partnering with the Limestone County Juvenile Community Service Program, you can contact her at 256-233-6425.
1109 W. Market Street Athens, AL 35611
Phone: 256-233-6425 FAX 256-233-6499