(Washington, DC) – Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced that youth committed to the DC Department of Youth Rehabilitation Services (DYRS) successfully completed a series of camps focused on skill-building opportunities and summer enrichment activities at DYRS Achievement Centers.
“Through our Achievement Centers, we’re providing youth in our juvenile justice system a second chance and helping them connect to opportunities and build a support network that sets them up for success,” said Mayor Bowser. “We believe in our young people, and know that with the right supports and interventions, we can get our youth back on track and ready to help us build a safer, stronger DC.”
This year, DYRS put even more of an emphasis on enrichment programming for youth engaged with the agency, with themed weeks throughout the summer focusing on such areas as restorative justice, career exploration, and education. The end of each week was punctuated with an outing to such places as the Autobahn Indoor Speedway and the Sky Zone Trampoline Park. Closing out the summer of events, DYRS youth and their families will participate in Family Unity Days on August 15 and August 22 and gear up for the start of the school year with a Back to School Night in the Achievement Center in Gallery Place on August 20.
“We enter the lives of our youth at a pivotal moment, a moment of possibility and of potential transformation and we’re unafraid to be led by principles of love, caring, compassion, healing, and restoration because we’ve seen that doing so works,” said DYRS Director Clinton Lacey. “At times we might provide the only adult connection and guidance that some of our youth have had, and we refuse to fail them. As we prepare youth to reenter their neighborhoods and as we strengthen our family and youth engagement, we also understand that the long-term answer to restoration, to a second chance, is in successfully reentering – and being embraced by – the community.”
Committed youth have been adjudicated and committed to DYRS’s care and custody for a period of time determined by a District of Columbia Superior Court Judge. Some committed youth serve portions of their commitment while still living at home, with intensive engagement with and oversight by DYRS.
Community-based youth had the opportunity to attend the programs located at the DYRS Achievement Centers in Gallery Place at 450 H Street, NW and in Southeast at 2101 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE. Safe spaces for youth foster career development, life skills, and certifications in up to 16 areas – including barbering, culinary arts, drivers’ education, and music production. The Achievement Centers also provide a place for youth to connect with their Credible Messengers, a transformative mentoring program that is part of Mayor Bowser’s Safer, Stronger DC public safety agenda and connects trained mentors and community members who are formerly incarcerated and have a shared experience.
Consistent with the Positive Youth Justice (PYJ) model – which champions the idea that the best way to enhance long-term public safety is to provide justice-involved youth with the tools they need to successfully transition into adulthood – the DYRS Achievement Centers are open to all youth in the District of Columbia in addition to youth committed to the agency, post-committed youth, and their family members.
PYJ is in line with the broader Positive Youth Development approach, which emphasizes that building on youth’s strengths helps them move past challenges, promotes resiliency, and restores them to their role as assets to their community.
DYRS youth also benefited from new workforce development initiatives such as a Youth Café housed in the Achievement Center that was born out of a partnership with Starbucks. Nine youth worked at the café after being trained by Starbucks staff and learning customer service skills. Three of the youth are in the process of being interviewed by Starbucks. Other Achievement Center and DYRS supports this summer included newly offered mental health services and daily engagement from the new DYRS Health and Restoration Team (HRT), college tours, summer school assistance, and guidance for youth participating in the Summer Youth Employment Program (SYEP).