By Deon Reece, Juvenile Justice Council

Mikva Challenge has transformed my life in many positive ways. The first thing Mikva offered me was a legitimate way of earning money, with this came the practice an individual needs to be part of the workforce and to move forward and look at life a little bit differently. Mikva Challenge has also allowed me to make useful and meaningful connections in different spheres of society from politicians to business people. I learned how these people accomplished these things and the benefit of meeting them and learning how their world operates. Mikva has given me the training I need to effectively enter the workforce and be a productive member of society, by this I know now the importance of going to work, having good attendance, learning to care for something I would of not cared about before.

Some of the things I learned at Mikva was how to respect other people’s opinions as well as their lifestyle and culture. I also gained the knowledge to deal with a different set of responsibilities: such as working as a team, going to work daily, and work with and persuade authoritative figures. It has also has given me the knowledge and experience to go out into the world with confidence and wisdom on certain subjects but most importantly instilled the will to want for something bigger and better. I also gained a wider understanding of politics, and government agencies and how they interact with juveniles and the situations they face. I learned you can be yourself and still be productive in society, that becoming a part of society does not make you a sell out, just a person wanting better for themselves and their families.

I was born in raised in the Humboldt Park area, those of you that know the area know it’s a tough area to grow up in. Plagued by gangs and their influences. Most people including myself think that kind of life was the only way to live life and enjoy it, having access to people that have accomplished anything the “right” way is a rare sight, we do not have those types of role models where I come from. Why be a teacher and get paid nothing, when you can sell drugs or steal and live like a king, not the truth, but to a young person living in these areas that’s how it seems. I like many other young people had to make decisions whether to be part of the problem or the solution and to be frank being part of the problem was more fun and enticing for a young person. I got into legal problems due to the culture I was raised in, right is wrong and wrong is right but the situation looks different from the outside in. I went away for awhile and in that time only became more of the person that had landed me in that unfortunate situation. I came out and was doing the same things I had done prior and I thought that that was the only way. Even knowing that way was going to get me in more trouble i was convinced it was the only way until I jointed Mikva Challenge.