Calgary Youth Justice Society
Our Story Why We Exist
Amy was described as challenging authority and having a bad attitude. She was seen as cocky, opinionated, angry and defiant. Amy was taking some classes at an outreach high school, but life circumstances and choices were weighing heavily on her; she was struggling. Drugs and alcohol were a problem and she was partying a lot, she had behavioral challenges and was was skipping out on school, she had unhealthy relationships and an unplanned pregnancy.
Her mom was at a loss, saying that Amy had no hope, no direction, and was generally very unhappy. She was worried. Then a glimpse of hope appeared on what she calls “…the day that everything changed. Amy came home from school in a good mood (emphasizing that good moods were not common for her). She was excited to say that she was nominated for a leadership program because a teacher at school thought she was a leader with a potential.”
Imagine, as a mom, how she must have felt that day – Amy wasn't’t referred to a program because someone saw another problem that needed to be fixed; this time it was a special spark in her daughter that earned her a spot in an innovative program called “In the Lead”.
It took a while for things to shift for Amy. But slowly, with a relentless focus on her strengths, she began to believe them and use them in new and promising ways. She was developing leadership characteristics in weekly classes where the facilitator led engaging conversations with her peers, she was connected with a Volunteer Coach who helped to mentor Amy through her journey, and she was giving back to the community through group volunteer events.
She became outspoken, using her voice to stand up for herself and others. She was independent, strong-willed, and engaged. She had focus and ambition. Her mom says it best – “when Amy was in the program she became more positive, more confident and more at ease. She was happy, she had hope…her light was back, I could see it in her eyes. She is now on a journey to becoming the person she was meant to be.”
This is only one story of one youth in one program at Calgary Youth Justice Society, but the great news is that Amy is among 400 youth every year who are given a chance to change, and do. Even still, there are too many overlooked young people in our community, like Amy, who are waiting for someone to notice what’s strong instead of what’s wrong.
Remember those characteristics that Amy used to be known for… cocky, opinionated, angry and defiant? Here are Amy’s own words she uses to describe who she is now:
“I am courageous. I am smart. I am outspoken. I am beautiful. I am a leader….. I am me”.
Our Impact What We Do
Calgary Youth Justice Society has been making a difference in the lives of young people whose life circumstances and choices have placed them at risk. Since the early beginnings of establishing Youth Justice Committees 18 years ago, we have continued to be innovative in our approach. CYJS has always seen the potential for young people to be resilient if engaged in ways that affirm their value and worth as the starting point for positive change. When adult volunteers and community partners connect in a positive way with young people who are at risk of or have involvement with the criminal justice system, the impact is youth who feel supported to be a part of our community in a meaningful way.
Our vision is a city where young people both contribute to, and flourish in, safe, caring communities.
Our accomplishments - as of the end of 2014…
- 224 Youth supported by Youth Justice Committees in 2014
- 11,000+ Youth served in the last 17 years
- 17 Youth Justice Committees in Calgary
- 210+ Calgary Communities served
- 150 Youth Justice Committee volunteers
- 125 Volunteers have served more than 3 years
- 4,314 Volunteer hours contributed in 2014
Our Programs How We Do It
Calgary Youth Justice Society, together with our volunteers, community partnerships and investors, serves young people through the delivery of 3 programs: Youth Justice Committees, Ngage, and In the Lead.
YOUTH JUSTICE COMMITTEES: First-time offenders represent the largest population of young people coming into contact with our criminal justice system. Youth Justice Committees provide a community based volunteer driven alternative to court for young people charged with minor offences. Over twenty Youth Justice Committees serve over 180 communities in Calgary, and through the efforts of over 200 volunteers, give hundreds of young people a second chance. The program is tailor-made to each youth, has a high level of collaboration with the justice system and community partners, and retains long-serving volunteers who deliver a professional service. Youth often say they now realize their own power and the opportunity to make a positive choice, they have a new idea of their role and responsibilities in a community, and they feel better about themselves as a result of the sanctions they were given. Sanctions are often chosen to fit the strengths, future plans, interests and current challenges of the young person before them. When assigned community service work, young people get job experience, e.g. volunteering at the library, and increased feelings of self-worth, satisfaction and sense of belonging to community.
NGAGE: Ngage is for young people in conflict with the law who are having trouble starting or completing their mandated community service hours. It provides wrap around support to youth who have significant barriers which would prevent them from achieving success in a typical volunteer placement.
Traditionally community service hours have been used in a more ‘punitive’ fashion. However, we have found that when a young person is engaged with giving back to the community by tapping into their “spark“, they feel a greater sense of connection to the community and will often continue to volunteer beyond their sanctioned hours, sometimes even bringing friends and family to volunteer as well.
Partnerships are created specifically for each youth with non-profit organizations and local community groups who are educated on strength-based approach mentoring to ensure youth successfully complete community service hours.
IN THE LEAD: Not all young people with strong leadership abilities are easy to spot. Many young people, facing challenges and obstacles growing up, develop characteristics that can be the foundation of great leadership but are too often overlooked in favour of peers who are displaying their potential in more conventional and obvious ways.
Over 16 weeks, Young Leaders recognize, nurture and practice individual strengths and character competencies that are known to build resilience. Cenovus Energy engages their employees as Volunteer Coaches to connect one on one with the young leaders, providing valuable encouragement and support.
Together, the Young Leader and Coach lay the foundation for realizing the young person’s potential, and reducing the likelihood of risk-taking behaviour and minimizing the challenges of negative life circumstances.
Our Requests What You Can Do
One way to predict the future is to create it. We are seeking co-creators of a future where young people both contribute to and flourish in safe, caring communities. With your support, the future starts today!
Make a donation, volunteer or partner with us to extend our reach and make a bigger impact together.
Visit our website for more information. www.calgaryyouthjustice.ca