Going into spring semester, my supervisor and I immediately started crafting a plan for our Youth Engagement Program. Now that I have been working at the Juvenile Justice Center for a few months, I was ready to develop a type of diversion program that would offer truant youth (kids not going to school) a variety of workshops put on by groups in the community. The Youth Engagement Program is founded on the idea that interactions with those around you and establishing connections with others will help children move towards the right path. Therefore, I have been focusing most of my time and energy on finding the right people to come in and put on helpful workshops for the kids. For the most part, kids who do not go to school often have trouble with substances, staying up too late, and with anxiety and depression. I have already connected with a sleep doctor at the local hospital to come in and explain circadian rhythms to the kids as well as the damage that screens can have on you before bed. I have also met with Whitman’s First Generation Working Class Club to give the kids personal stories of their time in high school and the options that these youth have after getting their GED. Right now, I am trying to create a brochure for the various programs that the JJC offers to youth, I just need to get pictures to fill in the blanks.
Sadly, I have been having trouble with people in the community. Some people do not think that this program is developed enough to take the risk to help. I have had to have some difficult conversations and persuade citizens of Walla Walla to take a chance on this new program. I hope that I will get more responses soon. I personally believe that the kids could gain so much from the support of their community and making connections with people that understand what they’re going through or can give them the resources to succeed. Whenever I attend a truancy board, I can see the patterns with each child and their desire to do better. They just need more people to show them that they care. Given my difficulty finding people to contribute to the cause I have had to push back my first workshop into early April. However, I am optimistic that once this program gets off the ground it will be impactful.
Experiences like Lucy’s are made possible by the Whitman Internship Grant, which provides funding for students to participate in unpaid internships at both for-profit and non-profit organizations. To learn how you could secure a Whitman Internship Grant or host a Whitman intern at your organization, click here or contact Assistant Director for Internship Programs Mitzy Rodriguez