The professionals, community members and other caring adults in Snohomish County, Washington agree.
Annie Mulligan and other generous artists in Snohomish County are mentoring young photographers through a program called Promising Artists in Recovery (PAIR), modeled after Reclaiming Futures. The PAIR program connects teens in the county’s juvenile justice system with local artists. This powerful work introduces young people, like Ayrton Clements, to mentors along the road to success. Ayrton’s photography appears at right.
Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE) is a youth-led collaborative made up of seven community organizations and eight high schools across the city of Chicago working to lower the dropout rate and increase college readiness in our schools. As youth leaders with Logan Square Neighborhood Association (one of the organizations involved in VOYCE), we want to share what being youth leaders in our school and community has meant to us. Being part of VOYCE has brought many changes in our lives, in our school, and in our community.
One question that adults sometimes ask is, “How do you get youth involved?” In our experience, there is a big difference between attending your first meeting and actually staying involved and becoming a youth leader. Many of us get involved because we are struggling in school and want to find a way to improve, or, simply because we have friends who are in VOYCE.
But we stay because we feel like we are a part of something important.
Positive youth development is a key part of Reclaiming Futures. But what the heck is "positive youth development?" According to juvenile justice researcher Dr. Jeffrey Butts, it blends what we know about adolescent development and what we know about effective services.
But don’t take it from me — here’s a brief interview on the subject that I did with Dr. Butts at the Reclaiming Futures Leadership Institute held in Miami in May:
It consists of three poems from the students in Leslie Schicht’s class at Global Connections High School in SeaTac, Washington, and an email from Melissa Struyk, who interned with Ms. Schicht this year. Struyk and Schicht used the Pongo web site to teach a poetry unit for ninth graders, which resulted in the teachers deepening their knowledge of the students, and the students deepening their connections to one another.
I have republished it here because one of the poems the students voted to submit, "Skipping School," is particularly relevant for youth in the justice system, and because Pongo’s writing exercises are well-suited not just for mainstream classrooms, but for working with youth in trouble with the law or struggling with drugs and alcohol. See Gold’s post, "Poetry as Treatment for Youth in the Juvenile Justice System." -Ed.]
Here’s the first of three poems the students voted to submit to a contest through Pongo Teen Writing:
Skipping School by JE
I come to school and start
I see the cops and I start
The principal came out and started
I was running so fast that I started
I was so scared that I stopped
I can do nothing to
But I still have to
Now look at me and tell me what you
A young boy coming out of the streets trying to be something you can’t
This is me, and I’m not trying to be what you can’t see.
Background: On May 18 and 19, 2011, Reclaiming Futures hosted its biannual Leadership Institute for its participating sites. Held in Miami, the Institute featured presentations from leaders in the fields of youth work and juvenile justice.
About This Video: On May 18, 2011, Karen Pittman, a national leader in youth development work, gave a one-hourpresentation on positive youth development—what it is, what it means, and how it can help communities make better decisions about their young people, including those in the juvenile justice system. It was broadcast live and then posted as an archived video.
Part two — about the last three minutes of Karen’s speech — is below the break:
At the back of the publication, I found these inspiring "rules" for creating youth development programs:
Assume that young people are competent. When you start with the assumption that youth are damaged, some of them will likely “catch” the very problem they think they are supposed to have.
When working with young people, make sure they are in mixed groups—youth and adults solving common community problems together, and making sure youth themselves come from a mix of the usual group labels—good/bad, quick/slow, etc.
Jobs and activities for youth must be important, rewarding, and meaningful to create a sense of success, contribution, and belonging.
A.R.T.C. is a therapeutic creative arts program integrated into our substance abuse and behavioral health programs. It identifies and incorporates the strengths, needs, abilities and preferences of our young clients into their individualized treatment plans.
A former colleague (an assistant district attorney) recently asked me if I was still involved with Judge Kane’s “bleeding heart book club.” We both laughed. In a more serious vein, he went on to ask whether I thought he might enjoy it, because he was approaching retirement and might have some time to – and it sounds like a cliché but really isn’t – “give back to the community.”
Like many other juvneile courts, Hocking County has found a lack of local mentors and mentoring programs serving court-involved youth. So they’ve allocated $10,000 in grant money to promote one-on-one mentoring with teens in the justice system. The grant is from the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
But if you missed Thank Your Mentor Day — I’m afraid I did — it’s not too late. The whole month of January is National Mentoring Month. Check out the website for ideas and information.
Teens in the juvenile justice system need opportunities to express themselves as much as — and probably more than — other teens.
Their struggles with family, friends, drugs, alcohol as they mature and try to figure out who they want to be can make for moving fiction, poetry, and essays. Even if they’ve never written before.
Here’s a chance to connect teens in your jurisdiction with online writing activities that make it easy to be creative, explore painful topics, and share their work with others: check out the Pongo Teen Writing website.