By Kimberly Gilbert

On Feb. 6 at 3 p.m. the Mesquite Municipal Court had the privilege of graduating an amazing young woman from the Breaking the Cycle program. Representatives from city administration and community groups including the Salvation Army, Mesquite Behavioral Health Center, AA, Mesquite Works, etc were present to see Ana Perez graduate with 530 days of clean and sober living.

Community leader Jean Watkins spoke about Perez’s admirable commitment and dedication to the program, and reminded her, “There is no one in the world like you. You are special. You have your own story to tell. You deserve to be happy, healthy, have a full life, and be the best person you can be.”

Perez and her infant daughter, Kimberly, were invited to approach the bench where Judge Ryan Toone presented them with a Certificate of Graduation, a photo book memorializing their journey through the program, and some gift cards to local businesses.

Perez verbally committed to reading to her baby daily, and was presented with a gift of several children’s books. Toone reminded Perez that although she experienced some ups and downs while in the program, “…at some point you made the decision to complete the program. The choice you made has a ripple effect on your life, your daughter’s life, and the lives of people around you. While you’ve completed the program, it’s not really a completion; it’s a beginning.”

Perez made a short speech where she admitted having been scared and nervous when she initially entered the program, and recounted a specific turning point for her, when she realized she didn’t want her life to continue on the path she was headed, and that became the moment she truly dedicated herself to successfully completing the program.

According to Mike Van Houten, the coordinator of the program, requirements for what was formerly called “Drug Court” include daily contact with the coordinator, written essays, Parenting Information and Issues classes, regular and consistent participation in AA support groups, and successful completion of four distinct phases of the program.

There are currently three participants in Phase One: Orientation and Information, no participants in Phase Two: Restructuring, 2 participants in Phase Three: Life Skills, and one in Phase Four: Independence and Mastery. The Breaking the Cycle program in Mesquite is one of only 42 specialty courts in the state of Nevada, and participants partner with and get wraparound support from the judiciary, prosecutor’s office, defense attorney, counseling agencies, and other community groups.

At the conclusion of the ceremony, Prosecuting Attorney Bob Sweetin moved to dismiss the case against her, and Toone granted the motion. Attendees were invited to participate in refreshments and congratulating the young mother on her graduation.