This blog post is written by Rondell Christmas, a youth leader from the Juvenile Justice Council.

Screen Shot 2017-06-22 at 1.37.18 PM

Reflections from a teen working to transform the Juvenile Justice System

Before I start, let me just introduce myself. My name is Rondell, and I’ve been working with a group of other youth on issues surrounding the justice system. I first got involved with Mikva Challenge last year and it has been a great experience and really a life changing program. I highly recommend that youth give Mikva Challenge a chance and we will continue to keeping up the good work.

This past year, our group, known as the Juvenile Justice Council (JJC) was focused on helping youth return from system involvement back into our communities. We also placed special attention on making sure schools they return to are well equipped for their needs. We did this by creating a series of recommendations that we presented to the Cook County President, Toni Preckwinkle. We met and shared our recommendations with fairly important people, from juvenile probation officials all the way to CPS officials.

In our last major meeting, we met with Molly Burke and Mary Bradley (CPS officials) and other school leaders of the local option schools. We shared with them some good recommendations that we thought would be helpful for youth returning or entering their schools. We presented our ideas and led discussions with the school leaders.

Some of our policy recommendations included:

  • Employment resources to help unemployed youth with getting jobs
  • Restorative justice practices in schools to build a relationship with student and school staff and;
  • Social and emotional, trauma-informed counseling

Here’s some feedback from the meeting:

  • One of the Principals of an option school expressed that they have already implemented one of our recommendations (Restorative Justice practices) in her school. She said our recommendation is a great idea that works effectively and she encouraged the other option school principals to give it a try.
  • Another principal asked what role probation officers will play in the youth’s education.

At the beginning of the meeting, I felt that the interest level of the principals was very low. I think some of them did not really realize that many of us are in the some position as their students, so they acted as if they were not interested. But after we began presenting and broke down into our groups, they saw us as experts and started to gain interest in what we were saying. I feel that they began to show interest once they realized that we were knowledgeable on these issues and began listening to us very carefully.

As a council this was officially our last meeting of the school year and for our framing question of “how can we help youth returning from system involvement back to community,” has come to a close. We’re very hopeful that some of our recommendations will be implemented in schools all around the city and we’re excited for this coming summer and next school year.