By Orleny Rojas, Rescource Coordinator
On July 9th Bronx Community Solutions held its first Youth Impact Panel class. The class is part of the Youth Intervention Program (Y.I.P.) created to target youth between the ages of 16 to 21 with previous criminal court cases. The purpose of the program is to offer an alternative to incarceration, to connect the youth with services, and to offer decision making and consequential thinking while providing a forum to evaluate their actions and to express their views. The class is geared toward self-review and expression, and offers education on the responsibilities they have to their communities, families and themselves. Participants are given the opportunity to discuss their arrest through the many lenses and systems that interact within their lives. In the last eight weeks, we have seen the class grow from two participants to a steady five to nine.
The structure of the group is so that one of our Americorp interns leads the discussion with a staff member as a moderator. Through this dynamic, we have elicited an interesting interplay. The participants have found a voice and a sound board to express their views, but more than that, for the first time they are given a different perspective and point of view which has at times led to the begrudging concession of their one sided viewpoints. The information the class disseminates has allowed them to see and consider different points of views and the complex issues on both sides of the argument. It is particularly insightful, when participants offer the other point of view. One example is when the class discussion centers on Police relations and incidents that take place during the arrest process.
In the last month powerlessness and the strained relationship with the police were topics brought forth in every class. There is a general sense of frustration shared among the program participants when claims of police harassment come up. The participants share disclosures of similar experiences and the group leaders try to tie that into the impact criminal behavior has on their communities. In specific, how their actions can contribute towards the stereotypes and negative perceptions of youth. So far, there have been times when the group dynamic is not conducive towards insight and acceptance of their roles in their arrest. However, last week the group was candid and recognized that certain behaviors on their part led to their arrest and involvement with the criminal court system. At the end of the session every single one of the youth shook my hand and thanked me for listening. We are planting the seeds and offering the resources that create opportunities and options they did not have or could not access before.