What are you proud of?
When someone under 18 years of age is arrested by law enforcement, he or she is taken to one of three Los Angeles County Juvenile Halls. If the judge determines that the minor cannot return home, he or she might be sentenced to six or nine months at a "probation camp". For the past decade, I have had the privilege of working with students who are receiving their educational services through the Juvenile Court System. I began by working as a Transition Counselor at three probation camps in the Santa Monica Mountains. Each camp had approximately 100 adjudicated minors serving time for a variety of crimes. During their stay at camp, the Los Angeles Office of Education (LACOE) provides for their educational needs. After numerous meetings the student, his parents or guardians, therapist, social worker, probation officer and district school officials, I would put together an individualized educational re-emersion plan for the student. Once released from camp, I would often meet the student at the school on the day of enrollment to ensure that everything went smoothly. For the next three months I would stay in contact with the student as both a check-in and to help them navigate any educational issue that might cause the student to break his condition of probation.
During the past four years, I have been working in much the same capacity at Central Juvenile Hall with the Developmentally Disabled student population. Most students do not stay long at one of the Juvenile Halls, however, students who are Regional Center clients are exempt from going to camp. They will stay at Central Juvenile Hall until their judge allows them to return home or until probation is able to find a suitable placement. Those are my students. I am most proud of them. In the time I have with them, which could be only a few months or as much as two years, the student and I implement an Individualized Learning Plan. It consists of Academic, Behavioral and Post-Secondary goals. We set up a plan to recover credits (if necessary), qualify for AB216 (if applicable), prepare for the HiSET exam, fill out college or trade school applications, complete FAFSA, apply for scholarships and, in general, prepare for life after high school.
What motivates you?
My students motivate me to work toward restorative justice. As hurting people, my students have hurt others and can easily be hurt. They are damaged goods; hardened on the outside, but as fragile as any student you would encounter at any other high school. While each day has its own peaks and valleys, I have never once woke up in the morning and not wanted to be with my students. They give me hope in the fact that we are always more than the sum of our past failures. The future is theirs. I feel privileged to play a small part in that process.
How has your work made an impact on your community?
My students leave Central Juvenile Hall with more of sense that being successful in the future is definitely possible. They take on just a little bit more ownership of their academic future as they transition back into their community. They are empowered with more academic knowledge and skill sets which, hopefully, they will use to better themselves, and their community.