November 22, 2016

Youth art display from JSD's art show October 2016
Youth art displays at the 2016 art show organized by Red Stone Collective and the Department of Community Justice
Over 50 people, including young kids and families, showed up on a very rainy Friday evening to hear about the work that devoted community members have brought to youth housed in the Department of Community Justice (DCJ) Donald E. Long Home. For over 6 months, artists and spiritual leaders have come in once a week to engage youth in making art, Aztec dancing, and leading  sweat lodge ceremonies in an effort to build self esteem and develop cultural connections.

The event, organized by DCJ and the Red Stone Collective, also included paintings and ceramics made by the youth. A panel of staff and volunteers were on hand to share their experiences working with the youth. The panel was introduced by Rodolfo Serna, a case manager with the Latino Network, who worked closely with Pamella Guzman, Evidence Based Practices Lead in Custody Services, to develop this idea and secure grant funding to offer this programming. Rodolfo shared that the funding they received from the McKenzie River Gathering Foundation allowed them to bring together some amazing artists who shared their skills and knowledge with the youth, who in turn walked away learning new things about themselves.

Several DCJ staff shared their experience working with these youth. Custody Services Manager Craig Bachman emphasized that DCJ’s goal is to treat these youth like our own and provide pro-social activities in hopes that they do not come back. Gonzalo Aquino, a Juvenile Custody Services Specialist, played a key role in bringing the sweat lodge ceremonies to the youth. He provided history of how these ceremonies have been used to create a sense of collectiveness and shared the positive impact they have made on the youth who have been able to participate, like building self esteem and developing cultural connections. Roy Washington, also a Juvenile Custody Services Specialist, has worked with these youth for 21 years. For the last 12 years he has taught black history in hopes that they learn about the struggles in the past and understand the struggles they are going through.

The evening ended with a performance by Mexica Tiahui,  an Aztec dance performance group that taught dance to the youth. As one dancer shared before the performance, she was amazed at how quickly the youth learned the dances, even though they started off very shy and hesitant.

Panel of DCJ staff and Red Stone Collective volunteers shares their experiences working with youth in the Donald E. Long Home
A panel of DCJ staff and Red Stone Collective volunteers shares their experiences working with youth in the Donald E. Long Home
Because of the success of these sorts of programs, staff hope to find additional funding to bring these and other artists back to the Donald E. Long Center.  Additionally, they hope to find ways to connect youth who are currently on probation out in the community with these kinds of prosocial activities and organizations.