Probation officers kick off careers in Bow

A/M grad returns home - Terisa Gilligan doesn’t exactly fit the image most would have of a probation officer. But that does not deter her from doing her job. The 2006 Anselmo-Merna High School graduate began her duties as probation officer in Custer County in September 2011 - though she says that was not her first career choice. After high school, Terisa went to McCook Community College where she was a member of the volleyball team. After one year in McCook she transferred to Mid Plains Community College in North Platte, where she earned her associate’s degree. Terisa then attended the University of Nebraska-Kearney for two and one half years, obtaining a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice. Originally her goal was pre-law, which she says is an extremely challenging program. She was working at the county attorney’s office in Kearney when this probation officer job came open, so she decided to apply. “Being a probation officer had not really even crossed my mind until this job came open,” Terisa says. She says she decided to give it a try, and saw it as a good opportunity for a job that could help her start to pay back her student loans. But in the last year and a half, the job has become much more than that. The position Terisa filled had been held by Tom Gidley, whose office was based in Ord. When Gidley retired the Ord office was closed and relocated to Broken Bow. Terisa explains that she learned early on to set firm ground rules with her clients at their initial meeting. While she says it has, at times, been a little awkward dealing with individuals who may have known her previously, she says she has not had any problems as a result. She says the biggest challenge of the job is the amount of paperwork involved, and being able to keep track of all her clients at the same time. Her favorite part of the job, she says, is doing pre-sentence investigations, as it gives her an opportunity to learn about her clients and get to know them on a more personal level. She explains that the clients are assessed and classified by the paperwork they fill out, and that determines their frequency of visits, etc. Terisa also explains that the guidelines require the probation officers to have two years of experience before being assigned high-risk cllients. The district served by this office is a large territory, the same as the 8th judicial district. Four probation officers serve this district - one in Ainsworth, one in O’Neill and two in Broken Bow.Olson relocates for new job - The Broken Bow probation office was handled for many years by Jeff Kawata. Now there is a new kid on the block by the name of Nathan Olson. Like his counterpart, Terisa Gilligan, becoming a probation officer was not the first career choice for Olson. His plan was to be a counselor. A 2008 high school graduate of Norfolk, Olson continued his education at Hastings College. He graduated in May 2012, with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Though working as a probation officer may not have been his first choice, Olson made that decision prior to completing his college education. He says he had a coach in high school who also served as a probation officer, and that sparked some interest in Olson. “I thought this would be a great start for me. I know that as a counselor you work alot with probation officers, so having this knowledge will only benefit me,” Olson explained. He started his new position as probation officer in Broken Bow July 2, 2012. While Olson says he came in with a pretty good idea of what to expect of his new job, he has found the biggest challenge to be time management. His position is a little different from Terisa’s, in that Olson serves part-time as a traditional probation officer and part-time as drug court officer. The drug court program is fairly new in Custer County, and has gained momentum across the state in recent years. Olson says he is a strong advocate of the program, and believes it to be very beneficial. “If I were to continue in this field, that would be the area I would want to continue in,” Olson says of the drug court program. Olson says the thing he most enjoys about his involvement in the drug court program is seeing the process of change take place in the clients he works with - specifically, changes in their thoughts and behaviors. While his new job keeps him plenty busy, Olson still manages to find time for his favorite pasttime - basketball. He played basketball in high school and for the Hastings College Broncos. This year, he also served as assistant coach for the Broken Bow High School boys basketball program. Olson says the sheer size of the territory his office covers can be daunting, and the travel time somewhat frustrating, it is a job he enjoys. He says he likes the community of Broken Bow and sees himself here for at least several years.