Peer Court official takes over top spot

Peer Court official takes over top spot

DANVILLE — A familiar face will be taking the reins of Peer Court Inc. soon.

Katie Osterbur, the organization's program coordinator, was chosen to succeed Paul Sermersheim as executive director.

Sermersheim, who has led Peer Court for eight years, steps down on Friday, and Osterbur begins her new post on June 10.

"We're very sad he's leaving," new board President Andrew Phillips said of Sermersheim, who is moving out of town. "But we're thrilled with his successor. Katie cares very much about the program and the kids, and she will do an exceptional job."

Phillips also said David Costello, a volunteer, will serve as the community service work coordinator.

Established locally in 1993, Peer Court is a court diversion and accountability program is for youth offenders, ages 10-18, who have admitted their guilt or participation in offenses such as breaking curfew, littering, possession of drugs or alcohol, criminal damage to property, burglary, unlawful use of a weapon, and assault.

Offenders appear in Peer Court for a sentencing hearing, held the second and fourth Tuesday of the month at Harrison Park Clubhouse. At that time, testimony is heard and volunteer youth "prosecutors" and "defense attorneys" argue for what they feel is an appropriate sentence.

Then jurors, also youths, deliberate and return a sentence that generally includes serving on a Peer Court jury, restitution, written apologies, education programs and community service. Osterbur said participants collectively clock 4,000 to 5,000 hours of service each year.

A Danville native, Osterbur graduated from Schlarman High School in 2002 and earned a degree in interpersonal communication from Southern Illinois University in 2006. She has served in her current position for six years.

She and her husband, Colin Osterbur, have two daughters — Emma, 6, and Sophia Grace, 3.

Osterbur said she's excited to step into her new role.

"I learned a lot from Paul, and I think it's going to be a very smooth transition," said Osterbur, who will oversee the program, administer the annual budget of $70,000, write grants and do fundraising. "I completely believe in this program because I see it working on a daily basis."

In 2012, the program served 101 youths in Vermilion County, and 89 completed the program successfully, Osterbur said. It has a 83 percent success rate.

She plans to increase the number of volunteers — both youth and adults.

"It's always a struggle to retain them," said Osterbur, who is planning a recruitment campaign and an "attorney" training this summer.

Sermersheim said he will miss the organization, especially working with the kids.

"And I'll miss being out in public and seeing former clients who tell me they've stayed out of trouble, finished school and have gone on and done great things. Youth court works, not only in Vermilion County but across the nation, and the private community here has been very supportive of it."

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