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'Making an impact'

Judge Susan Clancy Boles committed to helping youth avoid bad decisions

In her role as a Kane County circuit judge, Susan Clancy Boles has presided over abuse and neglect cases, and she has dealt with juvenile delinquency. She is currently a felony judge and will be sworn in next month as the new chief judge for the Sixteenth Judicial Circuit Court of Kane County.

But to Kane County Associate Judge T. Clint Hull, Boles is an Everyday Hero because of her efforts to help teens and young adults avoid bad decisions that can impact their lives forever.

"What makes Judge Boles an Everyday Hero is the commitment she has made to do whatever she can to keep teenagers and young adults from making that bad decision and seeing the inside of a courtroom," Hull wrote in nominating Boles for an Everyday Hero honor.

"Since 2009 Judge Boles has been traveling to high schools throughout Kane County to present 'Seven Reasons to Leave a Party,' " Hull wrote. "She has given the presentation to thousands of students. ... She is making an impact."

Boles said Hull also participates in giving the presentation to students, noting they present another program about using social media responsibly. She said she wished she and Hull could be "co-heroes."

"The presentation uses real life stories of kids who had everything going for them, and one bad decision ultimately changed their lives by having a record," Boles said. "That is the point of it."

"Seven Reasons to Leave a Party" is a state program developed by the Illinois Judges Association, Boles said.

"I came on the bench in 2007, and we took that and adapted it," Boles said of her collaboration with Hull. "Because we were younger, we wanted it not to be dated. We modernized it."

They have given the presentation to juniors and seniors at St. Charles East and North high schools on alternating years, and they also have presented at Larkin High School in Elgin and Dundee-Crown High School in Carpentersville.

Boles said she is talking to Geneva High School officials about doing a presentation there this spring.

Over time, school administrators also saw a need for a presentation to younger students – but one that included the potential dangers of technology and social media. So, Boles developed a new presentation that she has done at Rotolo Middle School in Batavia and at Thompson, Haines and Wredling schools in St. Charles.

Delinquency cases are not always cut-and-dried, she said.

"You do not have bad kids. You have kids who made poor decisions because they don't have support or role models," Boles said. "It affects their schooling because they get kicked out of school or they get a residential placement. There are different reasons why [there is a] lack of support at home, lack of opportunities, lack of role models. Anything anybody can do to change that is a good thing."

Boles said parents often don't understand why their child is in court.

"Parents, for the most part, are at a loss. 'How did we get here? We have a problem; what do we do?'" she said.

Boles sees these presentations as one of the "different hats" she wears as a judge.

"It's partly what makes you a good judge in that sense," Boles said. "I'm a realist. I realize what it's like to have teenagers. I understand the pressures facing them. It makes me care more. I understand where they are in their lives."

The Clancy Boles lowdown

Who she is: Susan Clancy Boles, a Kane County circuit judge

County of residence: Kane County

Age: 50

Family: Husband and three kids

Hobbies: Anything sports or outdoor related; gardening; and cooking

Fun fact: "I am a Junior Olympic Swimming champion."

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