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Daily Journal
     June 2, 2022      #27-153 KDJ

Longtime juvenile probation officer Seggebruch

By Jeff Bonty

KANKAKEE — “Grace Happens.”

The acrylic sign sits on a shelf in Grace Seggebruch’s office at the Kankakee County Probation Department.

Seggebruch closes out a 32-year career at the end of this week.

The 61-year-old, soft-spoken but wise Seggebruch is supervisor of the Kankakee County Juvenile Probation Department.

She has worked with juvenile offenders, ranging in age 8 to 18.

“Grace has worked with thousands of juveniles [and families] since starting her career in 1990,” Tom Latham, director of court services and probation, said.

He has worked with her since 1995.

“Her passion to help all of them never diminished from her first day until her last day. Every life mattered deeply to Grace and for three decades, to most working in the courts, law enforcement and the community as a whole.”

It is appropriate that Seggebruch dealt with kids.

In 1982 she earned a bachelor degree in elementary education from Olivet Nazarene University.

After graduating, she worked as a tutor before going to work for Cigna, a managed healthcare and insurance company.

“Back in the 1980s…There was a glut of teachers. It was different than it is today,” Seggebruch explained of her journey to becoming a probation officer.

A friend who worked as a probation officer in Iroquois County suggested Seggebruch interview for an open officer position. She was 29.

“I said, ‘I don’t know anything about this,’” Seggebruch recalled last week during an interview.

“After I walked out of my interview, they were thinking, ‘Who does she think she is?’

“You can imagine my surprise when they called me back for a second interview.

“I came here and thought this was better than being a teacher.”

Seggebruch said it helped that she liked to talk.

“I liked the kids. I liked to talk. There is a theme there,” she said.

“My Dad said when I learned to talk, it was the shut up part that I didn’t figure out. That is true. I am a talker.”

Seggebruch has worked with thousands of kids in her career.

Many times school officials called her to help work with one of her “kids.”

“I would sit next to them in the classroom. Just inches away to make sure they stayed in line and did the work,” she recalled.

There have been successes, but there have been ones with tragic endings.

“One young man was suspended. I said, ‘Pack a lunch and you will come to the office and do your school work,’” Seggebruch recalled.

“He came here and did the work. Every day I picked him up for five days.”

After that week, the young man did better, she said.

Asked if the young man turned his life around, Seggebruch replied: “Unfortunately, it was not a good outcome. I’ve had some die.”

People have asked her how she has been able to work with troubled kids for so long.

“I tell them, ‘You cannot dwell on what they have done. You have to work with the kids. What can I do to make it better?’

“I enjoyed that. I guess working with juveniles was just my thing.”

Latham agrees.

“Grace Seggebruch and juvenile probation are one in the same,” he said.

“So much knowledge and experience will leave with her when she retires on June 3, however she has helped so many individuals and changed so many lives for the better during her long career, her retirement is well deserved.”

Her work with many youth and many organizations has not gone unnoticed.

In 2009, Pledge for Life awarded Seggebruch its Harold Award, named for Harold the Giraffe, the mascot of the anti-drug and anti-drinking teen efforts. The award recognizes longtime service to youths.

“Grace fights harder than anyone I know for kids who others have written off,” Debra Baron, Pledge for Life board secretary said at the time.

The award sits on a shelf in a bookcase in her soon-to-be former office.

Success can be measured in many ways. One being touching someone’s life.

Seggebruch has done that hundreds of times.

It is measured in the former clients who stop by her office to catch up.

“Kids come back [and say] ‘Hey I graduated college. I got married. I have kids of my own,’” she said, her eyes teared up.

“It is a success. They can come back and talk to me. It is touching.”

Indeed. Grace Happens.

Jeff Bonty is a reporter for The Daily Journal. He can be reached at jbonty@daily-journal.com and 815-937-3366.

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