A Ron Jackson State Juvenile Correctional Complex employee, Holli Fenton, was nominated for a state award, Outstanding Women in Texas Government. Ms. Fenton was nominated in the area of Outstanding Contribution. According to The Governor’s Commission for Women: Women and Government website: “The Outstanding Women in Texas Government Awards were created by the State Agency Council in 1984 to honor women who work in State government, who do not hold elected or appointed positions, and who have helped shape Texas by contributing their talents and skills to state service.”
This certainly applies to Ms. Fenton who began her career at Ron Jackson as a case manager in 2004. In 2008, a group of case managers, including Ms. Fenton, started taking approved TJJD (formerly Texas Youth Commission) students to the Corrine T. Smith Animal Center for community service. Ms. Fenton, a long-time volunteer with the Center, fostering canines and serving on the board, conceived the idea of a dormitory at Ron Jackson that would pair canines with student trainers enhancing the canine’s chances for successful adoptions. The benefits to the students would be a developed sense of responsibility, empathy, patience and an increase of self-esteem.
After two years of careful planning and hard work on the part of many, the PAWS program opened its doors to five youth and five dogs on Pride Dormitory in January 2010. The preparation included: developing a program, training staff, screening and selecting students based on strict criteria, and generating interest from state and community stakeholders.
The students train their canines for 12 weeks and are responsible for feeding, watering, grooming, training and socializing their dog. The goal is for the canine to pass the American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizen Test and become a certified Canine Good Citizen. To date, there have been 37 students and 62 canines graduate. The dogs have found homes in the community and the students continue training other canines and mentoring new students in the program.
Ms. Fenton said, “I am so honored to have been nominated for this award. I truly enjoy working with the students, staff and canines in this program. The PAWS program positively changes the lives of the students.” Ms. Fenton continued, “The campus administrators have been incredibly supportive. I have a great staff; the PAWS program would not run without them. I would like to thank Dr. Joe Speck, DVM and Ag-Mart who have donated time, goods and services to this program from the beginning and continue to be loyal friends and supports of the program. Another huge thank you goes to the Corrine T. Smith Animal Center for partnering with us to the benefit of both the students and the canines.”