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Youth Bureau Gives Teens a Voice

When Jenny Byxbee became coordinator of the Greenwich Youth Service Bureau six years ago, Greenwich High students she met with had one gripe — there's nothing to do in Greenwich.

"I looked around at the Boys & Girls Club, the teen center, the YMCA and all these other services and thought, 'What are they talking about?'" she said. "But in listening I realized those services needed to become socially acceptable."

Erin Montague, founder of the Greenwich Junior United Way, said, "Jenny's ideas of 'let the kids decide what they want' really helped us develop [the Junior United Way]. As teenagers, we really didn't know what was available to us, and it was a great learning and social opportunity for students in the high school."

Byxbee, who grew up in Southport and majored in sports recreation and management in college, said she has always enjoyed working with teenagers. She previously was director of after-school programs in Newport, R.I., and was executive director of the New Canaan Teen Center.

Until 2005, Greenwich was one of the few towns in the state without a Youth Service Bureau to connect teens to services.

Byxbee said one of her proudest triumphs was the Juvenile Review Board program piloted last year. "It's important to have a safety net for children in our community who are clearly in need of services," she said. In the program, juveniles with first-time misdemeanors develop an action plan reviewed by a volunteer panel. Youths have one chance to complete their plan for their record to be erased. Of the 30 juveniles who have gone before the board, only three have been sent back to court.

"In Greenwich, everyone want the very best for their children," Byxbee said. "It's just knowing the best way to go about coordinating those services."

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