Seven youth from the Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) visited the White House today for “Justice and Opportunity: The Power of the Arts,” an event initiated in honor of National Youth Justice Awareness Month.
“This opportunity opened our kids’ minds to using the power of art to better understand others and themselves, and the prospect that there is so much out there for them if they commit to the right path,” said Garine Dalce, Deputy Director of Youth and Family Services at DYRS, who attended the event. “DYRS firmly believes in the healing power of the arts and implements programming reflective of this for our young people.”
The program focused on the importance of the arts in building narratives, empowering communities and furthering youth justice. Youth participated in panels and group discussions where they talked about their experiences and learned about the history of juvenile justice. Afternoon sessions consisted of workshops for them to capture their reflections from the morning sessions though expressive art forms such as poetry slam and graffiti art. Each young person also received a signed proclamation of National Youth Justice Awareness Month from President Obama.
President Obama proclaimed National Youth Justice Awareness Month a time to “recommit to ensuring our justice system acts not as a means for perpetuating a cycle of hopelessness, but as a framework for uplifting our young people with a sense of purpose so they can contribute to America's success.”
The advocacy group Campaign for Youth Justice launched National Youth Justice Awareness Month (YJAM) in 2009 to provide people across the country an opportunity to develop youth justice action-oriented events in their communities during the month of October.
“We are thrilled that President Obama declared October Youth Justice Awareness Month. By raising awareness of the thousands of youth in the justice system - most of whom are young men and women of color - and by pointing out that kids are different from adults, President Obama affirmed his commitment to care for some of our most vulnerable children as part of the “My Brother’s Keeper” initiative," said Marcy Mistrett, CEO of Campaign for Youth Justice.
DYRS youth and people across the country will continue to participate in National Youth Justice Awareness Month events throughout the month of October.