Amplifying Youth Voice, Effecting Systems Change

FLY & Santa Clara County Work Together Through a New Youth Advisory Council

Kathy Martinez, Santa Clara County’s Deputy Probation Officer, is excited about the opportunities that the new Youth Advisory Council (YAC) will bring to the Juvenile Justice System.  The YAC is designed to infuse the Juvenile Justice Department’s policies and practices with the experienced voice of former probationary youth.

FLY was selected to partner with probation by the county to develop the program alongside our talented young people. From years of experience in the field, Martinez believes that hearing the voice of those who have experienced the juvenile justice system first-hand will help us better support our youth as they rebuild their lives.

“We wanted to do something different, something that would engage the youth in a way that would really help us learn from their experiences. What worked? What didn’t? And if it didn’t, why? What did we miss?” Martinez said.

“We do assessments, working to determine what the kids really need and determining their risk level to re-offend. We create action plans with the youth and their families, but we often don’t get to see the result we’re working toward right away. The YAC will help us to know where and how we can make the most positive impact.”

The County’s probation coordinator for this project will work closely with FLY’s own Julia Cuevas, who recently moved into the position of YAC Program Manager at FLY. Together, the team will work to identify how to best recruit a cross-section of youth, including some FLY alumni, who have been involved at various levels within the Juvenile Justice System.

“It’s fantastic because the system is realizing they have a need for youth input, and they’re entrusting FLY with giving that input.  At the same time, the program will build capacity within the youth — they’ll take life-skill-building workshops such as public speaking, leadership development and system change advocacy. Professionally developing the youth is equally as important as giving feedback,” said Cuevas. “Creating the YAC is an important step in realizing that our youth voice matters in system reform and it’s a huge step towards community health.”

“We are so excited and honored to be able to work closely with our system partner on this groundbreaking effort,” said Christa Gannon. “To have been chosen to manage this team of young people as they step forward to speak up and share their own stories to help improve future operations is a great honor for FLY. Even greater is the fact that our County continues to work to do its best for our youth, as demonstrated by undertaking this project.”