JPO Keisha Lee making a difference one teen at a time
Published 2:52 pm Thursday, February 23, 2023
Lowndes County Chief Juvenile Probation Officer (JPO) Keisha Lee serves area teens, as well as their parents and guardians by mitigating conflict, providing guidance and connecting families with resources that meet tangible needs, all in an effort to help youths start and remain on the right track.
“I love trying to make a difference,” Lee said. “I always say children do what they do for a reason. I try to get to the root of what they have going on and put services in the home to help address those issues.”
Lee moved to Alabama from Saginaw, Michigan in 1994, with her mom when she was just seven years old and after her parents divorced. The transition was a culture shock but Lee soon adjusted.
She lives in Montgomery today, but she spends 6 or 7 days working and worshiping in the county which still feels like home.
“I didn’t want to move [to Lowndes County],” Lee said. “I tried to stay in Saginaw with my Dad but it didn’t work out. I went to Fort Deposit Elementary, Lowndes Middle School, and The Calhoun School. I woke up to cows at my window and I wasn’t used to that, but I learned to adjust.”
Lee earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology with a minor in Criminal Justice at Troy University, graduating with her master’s degree in 2015.
While working as an administrative assistant for attorney Mickey McDermott, Lee was introduced to the juvenile court system and gained an administrative position with the court system before transitioning into the position of Chief JPO.
As JPO, Lee stays abreast of current practices and principles associated with the juvenile probation office, counseling with teens and helping the whole family when needed to improve outcomes.
“I’ve always had a passion for children,” Lee said. “We can’t save them all, but I give 1,000%. A lot of children come from broken homes and some commit crimes because they are seeking attention or something is missing from their lives, whether there’s an absent mother and father, lack of attention, or low self-esteem. I try to get to the root of what they have going on and address that. Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn’t. We do have repeat offenders, then I’ve had children who left the juvenile court system, became an adult, and went to jail.”
Lee meets with groups, like the Children’s Policy Council, working with a variety of organizations designed to serve children. In addition, she talks with teens in schools, conducts home visits, whatever she can to be a resource for Lowndes County kids.
“Whatever I can think of, I’m doing it,” Lee said. “I want to talk to them before they come to me, so they know there is help. A lot of kids don’t have love at home, so I try to show them that love.”
Amy Perry, coordinator for the Lowndes County Black Belt Coalition, first met Lee through the coalition, and learned her role as coordinator from Lee, who chaired the organization’s quality assurance team.
“As a JPO, she knows the needs of the county,” Perry said. “She does home visits and really connects with families because a lot of disturbances start in the home. She follows up with families and gives them insight into what happens if all else fails. She connects them to mentors and counseling services and attempts to engage them in extracurricular activities, like volunteering. She tries all of that to help keep teens out of court.”
Lee and her husband, Lenny, have four children. They return to Lowndes County each Sunday to worship at Big Union Christian Church.
In her spare time, Lee operates Premier Event Planning and Services, coordinating events like weddings, reunions, and birthday celebrations. She also helps her parents in their tax preparing operation — Campbell’s Tax Service.
But Lee said her passion is helping children and trying to make a difference in their lives.
“I love making a difference,” she said. “I have a passion for that. I don’t want a child to ever say they didn’t have that person to help push them through life.”