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Gurnee teen earns Enrique Camarena Award

Warren student AustDemsk Gurnee was awarded The Enrique CamarenAward for his volunteer work for his involvement teen court program Lake

Warren student Austin Demsk of Gurnee was awarded The Enrique Camarena Award for his volunteer work for his involvement in the teen court program in Lake County. Photographed at Warren H.S. on November 21, 2012. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: January 24, 2013 4:46PM

GURNEE — A desire to help fellow teens make better choices and stay out of court landed Warren Township High School sophomore Austin Demski, 15, the Enrique Camarena Award.

Austin is a peer juror/attorney for four of the six Nicasa Teen Courts in Lake County. He is among the teens who helps give his peers a second chance. Fist-time teen offenders with drug, alcohol, retail theft and other issues have the chance to go through Teen Court to get a second chance based on the restorative justice approach, according to Nanci Radford, Nicasa Teen Court supervisor.

Austin, along with other students, listens to teen offenders’ cases and helps determine appropriate disciplinary action, such as community service, writing apology letters or taking a TRACK (Taking Responsibilities and Accepting Choices through Knowledge) class.

“Austin believes his involvement in the lives of others has positively changed his life and he wants to pay it forward. I believe this young man is deserving of this award. He has the power and the desire to make a difference in the lives of others,” Radford said.

She was the one who nominated Austin for the award. The Enrique Camarena Award is given to an individual who is either a professional or volunteer in the substance abuse prevention field.

The award is named after a Drug Enforcement Administration agent who was killed in the line of duty. Camarena worked undercover to stop drug trafficking. He believed that one person can make a difference.

Austin said it was “shocking” to win the award.

“I was thankful for it because it was incentive to keep volunteering in the community,” Austin said.

He has been involved in Teen Court for about a year and a half. He is also part of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office Explorer program. That program is open to people ages 14 to 21. Austin gets to do ride-alongs, traffic stops and helps direct traffic at special events.

Austin wants to be a police officer. That’s why he does both the Explorer and Teen Court programs.

“Different teens can make a change by (us) volunteers. We have the opportunity to change other people’s lives in a positive way,” Austin said.

He is a “solid kid” who is giving of his time, according to his Principal Greg Meyer.

“He’s goal-oriented. He’s doing things to get there. Somebody like that is going to be extremely successful. He’s going to have a very bright future,” Meyer said.

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