Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Corps Members Give Away Thousands of Books to Children in Red Hook to Encourage Summer Reading

On May 18th the New York Juvenile Justice Corps put on the second annual “Today a Reader, Tomorrow a Leader” summer reading kick-off event with the Red Hook branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. Under the hot Friday afternoon sun, Corps members gave away thousands of donated books to local children and teens. More than 500 kids, parents and grandparents spent hours browsing through the book selection and left with arms, bags and strollers full of new books for summer. Corps members greeted kids asking about their reading-level and favorite books to help direct them to books they would most enjoy. Corps members also led arts and crafts where kids designed bookmarks and drew illustrations from their favorite stories. Many children left the book fair to wander through the library - happily realizing free books are actually at their fingertips 365 days a year!
The event is an effort to encourage a love of reading and increase access to age-appropriate books to prevent the phenomenon of the “summer slide.” The “summer slide” happens when students go all summer without opening a book and fall behind in school, forcing teachers to spend up to three months reviewing lessons from the previous grade-level, causing students to fall even further behind. Research shows that students who read just 4 books during the summer score better on reading tests in the fall than their peers who read one or fewer books.
Corps members told the kids that although the last day of school is right around the corner, summer break does not have to mean a break from reading. It was inspiring to see children and their families get so excited about books and spend the afternoon reading in the sunshine, momentarily forgetting about their Xbox 360's and TV's back at home.
Books were generously donated by Tymberly Harris of Packer Collegiate Academy, Cynthia Sichenze of the Legal Aid Society, Dianne Graham of the Office of Children and Family Services, Sandra Sutton and Donna Longobardi of the Red Hook Public Library, Toni Bullock-Stallings and other Red Hook Community Justice Center staff. Thank you to Ronell Jack and Nelson Rivera and the Red Hook community service crews for their assistance moving the books, to Nate’s Pharmacy for donating hundreds of bags, to P.S. 15, PAVE Academy and Good Shepherd Services for spreading the word about the event, and to the dedicated members of the Juvenile Justice Corps for making the event possible.
 Children filled their backpacks and bags with books for summer.

 Good Shepherd Services brought over 100 children from their after-school program.

Corps Member Lameeka Collins leads children in arts and crafts. 

The book fair included books ranging from picture books to chapter books and everything in between! 

 Donna Longobardi of the BPL helped children decorate fun animal-shaped bookmarks.

Corps Members recommended favorite books from their junior high days. 

This event was made possible from the support of our wonderful Red Hook Branch of the Brooklyn Public Library! 

 Blue and yellow balloons (the colors of the JJC) attracted many children on their way home from school at P.S.15.

 Many young ballplayers from the Justice Center-run Red Hook Youth Baseball League came by before practice.

 Corps members reminisced about their favorite books from childhood. Corps Member Sean Myers has a soft spot for Captain Underpants! 
After the fair, children from nearby PAVE Academy gathered to read and share their new books with one another. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Connecting Teens and Young Adults to Summer Internship and Job Opportunities in Red Hook

On Tuesday, May 8th, the Red Hook Community Justice Center hosted our 3rd Annual Youth Summer Internships and Jobs Fair at the Joseph A. Miccio/ NYCHA Community Center in Red Hook, Brooklyn! We opened our doors to over 200 young people between the ages of 14-24 from throughout Brooklyn, with a focus on Red Hook and southwest Brooklyn, in the hopes of providing young people with the chance to apply for paid and unpaid summer employment opportunities at the Justice Center, local businesses and non-profit organizations. 

The Red Hook Community Justice Center began organizing the Summer Internship and Job Fair in response to high unemployment levels among local teens and their strong desire to find work during the summer. Estimates show that the teenage and young adult unemployment rate is substantially higher – about 30% - compared to the local unemployment rate of 9%. Finding summer jobs and internships is a rite of passage for our young people where they gain skills that have been shown to benefit their short-term academic goals and long-term professional careers. We want youth to gain experience and skills in professional fields, network, and help build their resume. Most importantly we want young people to occupy their time during the summer with positive experiences and opportunities. 

Some of the many organizations who participated in the fair were Exalt, Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow, Hook Productions, Groundswell Mural Project, Department of Youth and Community Development, the 76th Precinct’s Youth Explorers program, Councilwoman Sara Gonzalez’s Office, the F.A.S.T. Track Program, and Lutheran Family Health Center Community Health Corps; all of which have a deep rooted commitment to the youth in Red Hook and neighboring communities. In addition to these organizations, the Red Hook Community Justice Center and Center for Court Innovation (CCI) also recruited for job and internship opportunities through their New York Juvenile Justice Corps Program (AmeriCorps), Red Hook Community Justice Center Summer Internship Program, CCI’s Youth Justice Board Program, and our partnership program from the Crown Heights Community Mediation Center, Youth Organizing to Save our Streets (Y.O.S.O.S.). Educational opportunities were also available, providing vital scholarship information for future high school graduates.

We thank all of the attendees and organizations that participated in this year’s job fair; and we will hopefully see many of these organizations and more next year for our 4th Annual fair. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Acting Director of AmeriCorps Visits the New York Juvenile Justice Corps

The New York Juvenile Justice Corps hosted a high-profile visit on April 13th at the Red Hook Community Justice Center, for leaders involved with AmeriCorps at the national and state levels. The Juvenile Justice Corps was chosen as one of only two programs the group visited in New York State.

From left: Judge Hon. Alex Calabrese, Red Hook Community Justice Center, Rosa Moreno-Mahoney, Acting Director - AmeriCorps State & National Corporation for National & Community Service, Mark Walter, Executive Director, New York State Commission on National & Community Service, and Alfred Siegel, Deputy Director, Center for Court Innovation

Visitors, including Adrienne Hallett, Committee on Appropriations, United States Senate Professional Staff, Rosa Moreno-Mahoney, Acting Director - AmeriCorps State & National Corporation for National & Community Service, Mark Walter, Executive Director, New York State Commission on National & Community Service, and Donna M. Smith, State Program Director, New York State Office, Corporation for National & Community Service, heard from Center for Court Innovation staff about the history of AmeriCorps service to the Red Hook community and the important role that the New York Juvenile Justice Corps plays in the Center's greater vision for juvenile justice reform in New York.

Corps members share their experiences in the New York Juvenile Justice Corps with the group.

The group also heard from several current Corps members who discussed their experience in AmeriCorps and the contributions they have made to the sites they have been placed in, which include youth courts,attendance courts, New York City Family Court, New York City Criminal Court, reentry programs and alternative-to-detention programs. Visitors were impressed by the stories members shared about the unique and positive impacts they have made on the youth, programs, and communities they serve. 

Visitors meet members of the New York Juvenile Justice Corps, leading a day-long service project for teen participants of our youth programs in recognition of Law Day.

Corps Member Javan Howard recognized for his service to at-risk youth placed with OCFS

New York Juvenile Justice Corps member, Javan Howard is featured in the latest news publication of his alma mater, Dickinson College. Javan serves at a 24-hour, all-male juvenile facility with the New York State Office of Children and Family Services. In this capacity he creates and leads educational programming for the youth, finding new ways to teach core values such as democracy, identity, community-building and service-learning to the residents. Read more here

Congratulations Javan and thank you for your service to your community, AmeriCorps, and the youth at OCFS!

Javan and fellow Corps member Radel Clause volunteer for a recent "It's My Park Day" service project.


New York Juvenile Justice Corps Celebrates Law Day!

In recognition of this years' Law Day, teen participants of the Red Hook Youth Court and the Red Hook Community Justice Center’s Youth ECHO and photography programs, teamed up with the New York Juvenile Justice Corps and a visiting high school student group from the Civic Educational Project at Northwestern University in Chicago. Although it was the last Friday of Spring Break for New York City Public Schools, over 50 teens and Corps members gathered to make Law Day a "day on, not a day off."
Law Day is an occasion to reflect on the role of law in our country and its importance for society with changing themes every year. This year, the theme of Law Day is "No Courts, No Justice, No Freedom." We explored this years' theme through the lens of a few high-profile cases both historical and contemporary in which the courts did not act in the interest of justice and freedom as well as well as cases in which the courts have expanded civil rights and civil liberties. AmeriCorps members facilitated break-out discussion groups on different cases, including the murder of Emmett Till, the Supreme Court's debate over Arizona's immigration law, and the recent death of Trayvon Martin. AmeriCorps members and youth participants discussed the fallibility of the law throughout history as well as the potential for courts to make us a more free, safe, and just society.
Corps Members Peter Frankland and Genna Plumatillo facilitated a discussion for the group.
Immediately following the morning session, teens and Corps members participated in a service project in Coffey Park, a local park in Red Hook. Corps members and teens helped remove trash and debris, painted over graffiti, and put a fresh coat of paint on park benches and water fountains.Our group collaborated with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation as well as Alice Tapia, a lifelong Red Hook resident, former AmeriCorps and founder of "Friends of Coffey Park", a local volunteer group dedicated to making the once blighted and dangerous park, beautiful, safe and accessible to children in the community.
The take home message from the day was that change can be made by the courts as well as in our own communities. We hoped to instill in our teen participants, an deeper understanding of the court system in society, as well as a spirit of civil duty to be the change they want to see in the world.
Corps Members Stephanie Turner, Ellis Bullock, Shoneka Kelly, and Adrian Escarffullett tackled weeds growing in the cracks of the cobblestones and had fun doing it!

Corps Member Trime Kaja touches up the paint on the park benches.

The most beautiful time of year in Coffey Park!  

The JJC was joined by community partners Dave Wysocki from the Parks Department and Donna Longobardi from the Red Hook branch of the Brooklyn Public Library as well as staff from the Red Hook Community Justice Center.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Great Opening Day for the Red Hook Youth Baseball Season!

Saturday, April 28th marked the opening of the 15th season of the Red Hook Youth Baseball League. The beautiful spring morning began with a ceremony of short speeches and traditional first pitches by honored dignitaries and supporters of the league, including: Kings County District Attorney Honorable Charles J. Hynes, Council Member Sara M. Gonzalez, Felix Palacios the Community Liaison for Speaker Christine Quinn, 76th Precinct Police Captain Jeffrey Schiff, John McGettrick President of the Red Hook Civic Association, and Honorable Judge Alex M. Calabrese of the Red Hook Community Justice Center. The ceremony concluded with a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem sung by Pat Sones a Red Hook resident and longtime friend of the League. Immediately following the ceremony, exhibition games commenced in which Hynes' Heroes defeated the Defenders, and Southern Trucking defeated Gibbs' Brooklyn Youth Association Royals. The League receives generous support from Council Member Gonzalez, and individuals teams are sponsored by the Kings County District Attorney's Office, community members Lou Sones and Brett Taylor, Chris and Liz Hanson of the Southern Trucking Company, and Mr. Romles Gibbs of the Justice Center, respectively.  

Thanks to generous donations, there is no fee to play in the League. The League was founded by a partnership between the local Justice Center, AmeriCorps volunteers and community members and continues to be entirely volunteer-run today. True to its roots, the League is about more than balls and strikes and the coaches and volunteers work hard to instill in the young boys and girls the highest standards of sportsmanship, leadership and respect.

Honorary first pitchers echoed the League's mission to not only provide a venue for structured, competitive baseball, but to also encourage success in school. Ian Young, League Co-Commissioner and President of the SAYO Grays League which has sent 32 ballplayers to college on scholarships the past 2 years, spoke of his pride in seeing his former players go off to college as a result of their sports involvement, saying "Going to college is much more important to me than having one of my players play professional baseball."

The season had been in jeopardy when, in March, 4 of the ballfields were closed by the Health Department due to soil contamination from being the former site of a lead-smelting plant. (The fields are still in the process of being cleaned and renovated.) However, thanks to the hard work of Eddie Vargas, among others, at the New York City Parks Department and numerous public officials and civic groups who advocated on behalf of the League, we were given permits to other Red Hook ballfields and able to have a season.  

 Hon. Charles J. Hynes remarked he used to play baseball and still has quite a powerful arm!

 Hynes greets the players of "Hynes' Heroes" coached by ADA's Paul Vitale and Brandon Smith.

 Council Member Gonzalez offers encouragement to the Defenders.

League Commissioners welcome the teams (from left, Brett Taylor, Pete Morales and Ian Younge)

New Police Captain Schiff wishes the ballplayers a great season before throwing out his pitch.

Red Hook Civic Association President John McGettrick gives a heartfelt message to the youth.

Felix Palacios speaks of his Red Hook roots and love for the neighborhood.

Pat Sones delivers a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem while the Southern Trucking team looks on.

League Founder and 13- year Commissioner James Brodick (right) speaks with team sponsor, Mr. Gibbs of the Justice Center.

The boys and girls of the Defenders get ready for game time!

Put me in coach!

Juvenile Justice Corps member and assistant coach of the Defenders Annelly Chalas encourages her team.