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Former local man awarded for work with kids

May 10, 2006|By MARLO BARNHART

WILLIAMSPORT ? When Joseph K. Diseati decided that he wanted to work with at-risk youth, he said he did it to make a difference in kids' lives, not to win awards.

Nonetheless, his work with troubled children in Fairfax County, Va., has attracted attention, and in March, led to him receiving an outstanding performance award for his work there since 1978.

"I knew what I wanted to do since I was 15 or 16," Diseati said.

After graduating from Williamsport High School, he attended Frostburg State University, graduating with a degree in sociology and social work. With all that Diseati learned, he thought there was a better approach to dealing with troubled youth, he said.

As for his career in Fairfax County, Diseati said he stumbled into it via an internship at a home for at-risk youth while he was still in college.

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Currently, he is involved with the intensive pretrial supervision of youngsters awaiting trial.

"A caseload of seven to 10 kids is average," Diseati said. "I see them about four times a week ? trying to get their attention."

Ultimately, his goal is to be there for that kid in court.

"I answer questions, make recommendations and help them out of the system," Diseati said.

Diseati said he tells the youths he supervises that they have two choices.

"You can fight the system or you can do things to get stronger," he said.

In the letter that accompanied his nomination for the performance award, there were several examples cited of parents crediting Diseati with saving their child's life through his intervention.

One parent even called and asked to meet with Diseati informally with a second child before that child ended up in the court system, as did an older child who previously was supervised by Diseati, according to the letter.

"Adults return after years away from the juvenile court to find Mr. Diseati and let him know how they are doing and how much he helped them when they were younger," the letter said, noting that one was a doctor who said he owed his career to Diseati's earlier guidance.

Born in Hagerstown, but raised in Williamsport, Diseati, 49, was a member of the first class to go all four years in the current Williamsport High School building.

"The teachers there gave me a good base," he said during a recent visit with his mother, Lorraine Diseati, who now lives in Hagerstown.

"I'm really proud of all three of my sons," Lorraine Diseati said.

All close in age, Nick Jr., Joe and Blair have kept in close touch with each other through the years.

With retirement planned for July 2007, Diseati, who lives in Fairfax County, said he wants to return to Washington County and give something back to the community where he was born and raised.

"I may look at juvenile court and the school system here to see if there are any opportunities," Diseati said. "It's time to come home."

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