Post by Steve Nelson, Amicus Communications Director
This week I had the privilege of attending the graduations for young women taking part in Amicus Radius. Radius is a nationally known program designed for girls ages 12-18 who have become involved in the juvenile justice system. Radius is currently being run in Hennepin County in south Minneapolis, north Minneapolis and the northern suburbs of Hennepin County and girls are referred to Radius through Hennepin County Juvenile Probation.
Girls involved in the program are almost all working through some tough issues, going far beyond the offenses that landed them in the juvenile justice system: Traumatic pasts and anger issues, unstable living situations, unhealthy relationships, and teen pregnancy are all common.
In Radius, they come together in groups, they work individually with counselors, and, when appropriate, they try to reconcile with family members and loved ones. Mostly though, they’re striving to rekindle their relationship with their own better person – the strong young woman they have the potential to be.
At the end of the 14-week program, relationships among the participants and Radius staff are warm and they get together to celebrate their success with an informal, playful graduation. Friends and family are invited to join in a light meal while each participant is celebrated for what they brought to Radius and the progress they’ve made. Recently, girls at Radius graduations designed vision boards proclaiming who they are through headlines and photos from magazines. They wrote their dreams on blackboards and then posed with them for photos, proclaiming their goals to their future selves. Staff even pulled together a “soundtrack” for Radius participants, playing songs that celebrate who the young women are and who they can become. Here are a few of the selections:
“Bravo – Ledisi
“Beautiful Flower” – India Arie
“How to Love” – Lil Wayne
And for the elders in the crowd – “I Will Survive” – Gloria Gaynor
I spoke with a mother holding her newborn baby and determined to move forward while adding the dreams of her son to her own dreams, and with a father who had retired from his job as a bus driver to look after his two-year old grandson while his daughter finishes high school and pursues her dreams. I spoke to would-be RN’s and fashion designers. I saw families coming together in support of “their girl,” friends celebrating together through Hip Hop dance moves and other young women who didn’t have family there but were nevertheless moving forward as individuals determined to capture their future.
The challenges many Radius participants face won’t end with a graduation ceremony, but hopefully the positive energy given to them at the Radius Graduations can provide a little fuel to brighten the darker times ahead and strengthen the fire of their dreams .