A few days into Randy Macak‘s internship with McLean County’s Juvenile Probation office back in 1982, his supervisor had to take some emergency time off, leaving him on his own.

Macak faced an emergency situation almost right away with one of his cases – a youth who was physically abusing his parents. Macak had to figure out what to do, pushing him head first into the complicated world of juvenile justice when he only expected to be dipping in his toes.

But Macak, a criminal justice sciences major, ended up loving it, and his internship gave him confidence that he could do the job. Now, as the Department of Criminal Justice Sciences turns 40 this year, Macak is teaching the next generation of probation officers as deputy director of McLean County’s Juvenile Probation office, where he is also the internship liaison working with Illinois State students.

“I always knew I didn’t want to work with products. I wanted to work with people,” Macak said.

After Macak’s internship, he worked briefly in the Chicago area as a therapeutic family counselor, putting his psychology minor to work. But he came back to McLean County when a line officer job opened up on the Juvenile Probation team, putting 30 to 40 cases on his desk at any given time.

Macak, a 1982 alumnus, always had an interest in the law. While it’s more difficult to sympathize with adult offenders, Macak said, juveniles who are in trouble can rebound if given a second chance.

“Growing up, I could see how easily kids can go astray,” said Macak, whose office in the McLean County Law and Justice Center is lined with photos of youth sports teams he’s coached over the years.

Macak was named deputy director of Juvenile Probation in 2000 and today supervises three programs: Early Intervention, targeting youths that have exhibited problems in school, family, substance abuse, and pre-delinquent activities; Redeploy Illinois, which targets youth offenders who otherwise would have been incarcerated; and Extended Day, an after-school program for at-risk juveniles during a high-risk time frame.

The development of those new programs, such as Redeploy Illinois, is the most rewarding part of the job, Macak says. (Next up, Macak would like to help create a juvenile mental health court in McLean County, similar to an adult one that’s been a huge success locally.)

The internship program is only one side of Macak’s service to Illinois State. He’s also been teaching courses in the criminal justice program since 2000—from Contemporary Corrections to Juvenile Justice.

“It was always my dream to teach at my alma mater,” Macak said.

In addition to his teaching, Macak has “opened up so many opportunities for our student interns,” said Jacqueline Schneider, chair of the Department of Criminal Justice Sciences.

“Randy is by far one of the most dedicated alums CJS has. He is devoted to his students and to making their experience here at ISU as meaningful as his was to him,” Schneider said. “His openness to accept our students provides to them such valuable experiences for their future as professionals in criminal justice.”

Right now, four of the Juvenile Probation office’s five interns are Illinois State students, and most of the full-time staff is comprised of former interns. Macak didn’t get stuck fetching coffee or sharpening pencils back in 1982, and neither are today’s interns, who are meeting with children and school officials, preparing investigative reports for the court, and doing other important tasks.

“When you leave here, we want you to be able to walk into any probation department in Illinois and get a job,” Macak said. “I feel the internship is the most vital part of the criminal justice program.”

Ryan Denham can be reached at rmdenha@ilstu.edu.