Last week, we had a post that highlighted the value of involving young people in volunteer work during the Thanksgiving holiday. And indeed, our post tracked a nation-wide push to incorporate volunteer work and other forms of philanthropy into the Thanksgiving and holiday season spirits, including making today Giving Tuesday, following Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. Today, we want to highlight the efforts of members of the Staten Island Youth Justice Center, including staff and young people participating in the programming of the Center.
The Staten Island Youth Justice Center, opened in 2009, consists of two principal components–a teen-led youth court, in which local teenagers hear actual cases involving peers, and an alternative to detention program, PROJECT Ready, in which young people arrested for delinquency are supervised in the community while their cases are pending in family court. By intervening in the lives of young people at the point of their initial encounters with the justice system, the Staten Island Youth Justice Center aims to provide the juvenile justice system with better tools with which to respond to youth crime and help young people avoid further involvement in the justice system.
Volunteer work and commitment to community support and service is nothing new for the young people who participate in programs run out of the Staten Island Youth Justice Center. We featured the community service efforts of the Staten Island Youth Court in a post last December. This Thanksgiving, Project READY participants helped collected over $700 worth of groceries for the Dr. Theodore Atlas Turkey Give-Away, which helped feed families on Staten Island for the holiday. Although this is an annual event, it took on urgency this year as Staten Island was heavily damaged by Hurricane Sandy and many families were left homeless or struggling to repair their homes and return to normal. Project READY participants and community volunteers also helped decorate food collection boxes to be placed in businesses around the community. In addition, staff members and Project READY alumni volunteered in the sorting and distribution of food donations.
When run and executed well, community service provides value to the community in and of itself. But here at Youth Justice Programs, we also value community service for the opportunity it provides young people of in terms of skill-building, leadership development, and community engagement. Young people gain experience working with adults, learn how communities support each other, and develop problem-solving and collaboration skills. And most importantly, they get to take responsibility for their efforts and, as a result, recognize that they can make a meaningful contribution to the well-being of their communities.
|Project READY participants with their decorated donation boxes.|