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Teens are "Learning through Service" in Red Hook

Below is a summary of a new community service initiative for teen defendants that are sanctioned to do community service through the Red Hook Community Justice Center. The program is called "Learning through Service" and positively engages teens, while also teaching them the value of restorative justice, volunteerism, and serving their communities. Teens are able to fulfill their court mandate while also learning the value of community service.

"The first 2 days took place at the Brooklyn Greenway Initiative (BGI), located just up the street on Columbia and Degraw St.  BGI is responsible for increasing public access to and use of the Brooklyn waterfront.  This past Saturday, March 12th, an impressive 11 out of the 13 scheduled youth showed up for service.  Even more impressively, the youth were actively engaged throughout the project. 
After introducing the idea of restorative justice and reviewing the basic expectations for the day, the Red Hook Community Justice Center's facilitator asked each participant to talk about what change they would make to their favorite public space in their neighborhoods.  Participants came up with ideas like better lighting at outdoor basketball courts so they could be used safely at night and more trash cans in parks so that litter wouldn't accumulate.  Once participants started talking, the conversation evolved easily into how litter and neglect in public spaces harm a community.  Participants threw out ideas like residents feeling less pride in their neighborhoods and kids not being able to play outdoors.  The facilitator shared facts about local landfills and the build-up of trash in New York City, the youth seemed genuinely invested in trying to solve the problem.  In fact, at one point a small debate broke out over whether burning garbage or depositing garbage in the earth's core would be an effective method of clean-up.  One of the programs' primary goals, for youth to see themselves as able to be positive, contributing members of their community, was definitely accomplished last Saturday.

After the discussion, the group went outdoors to do a clean-up of the bike path along the water.  Although some sections of the bike path had piles of trash and debris, the group managed to clean up the entire path from Atlantic Avenue to where the path turns at Woodhull Street. Throughout the time, the youth were incredibly positive and willing to work.  After the clean-up, the founder and director of BGI sent an email to Red Hook staff, noting:  "Yet another step in the right direction for the program on Saturday; engaged youth and great work on the Greenway- perhaps the best I've seen. I look forward to the next one."


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