Celebrating Youth with Incarcerated Parents13 July 2017
Osborne’s Youth Action Council (YAC) and Youth Experience Success (YES) programs celebrated their annual Achievement Ceremony at St. James’ Episcopal Church this June. Volunteer partners at St. James’ welcomed Osborne staff, families, and caregivers to their beautiful and historic building to recognize the youths’ achievements during the 2016-2017 cycle. The participants in these two programs all share at least one thing in common: they have a currently incarcerated parent or a parent that was recently released from prison. Osborne’s YES Program is a nine month, skills-building curriculum for youth ages 13 to 15, who have a parent who is currently incarcerated. The YAC is a group of 16 to 19 year olds whose mission is to raise awareness about the effect of parental incarceration on children and advocate for positive changes in the criminal justice system. At the ceremony there was a palpable sense of pride in the air for these youth, especially when listening to the amazing sound clouds both the YES and YAC members created on their own this year. One of the highlights of the ceremony each year is when the youth share what the program means to them. See their inspiring speeches below.
Wilaja, YES member:
Greetings to all the parents and my fellow YES members. We are now coming to an end of the YES program, and I will miss you all. We have shared a lot of laughs and great moments and found out what similarities we all have that brought us together. We even had some sad moments. When the group H.O.L.L.A. came and did a workshop with us, some people became emotional, including myself. Most of the workshops we did were amazing and inspired me to do better. I've learned so much from this group like sportsmanship, togetherness, and just being a great person. The kids in YES are like my brothers and sisters, we all watch out for one another and support one another. Once again I'm so sad that we are leaving. I'll miss you Emma, Jahseam, Anthony, Eniola, Carlos, Yamille, Lay, Emani, Tahirah, & Mamie.
"The kids in YES are like my brothers and sisters, we all watch out for one another and support one another."
Oluwademilade Ogunlade, YAC member:
Good evening everyone and thank you for coming tonight. Before I begin, I'd like to thank everyone’s family. I'd like to thank Tres for being an outstanding facilitator and mentor to us all in the Youth Action Council. The YAC is a place where we all came together to learn, grow, and work. We all went to Albany to speak with numerous politicians to advocate for criminal justice. We had many workshops encouraging us to be socially empowered, respectful, and fighters for equality. We had a lot of lunch provided for us, which was personally one of my favorites aspects of the program.
Speaking of my favorite aspects of the program, some workshops I enjoyed were when H.O.L.L.A. taught us to stand up for what we want. We also learned how to make beats and created our own mini songs. Through discussions, my eyes were opened to what it really means to experience racism, oppression, and be marginalized. I can honestly say a lot of the workshops were educational, while also being fun, and those two traits are what I look for in a lesson.
"Through discussions, my eyes were opened to what it really means to experience racism, oppression, and be marginalized."
Through Osborne I've made many new friends, learned many new things, and connected to many new networks. This has been a great experience. Thank you to Osborne for having a program like this here to empower, uplift, and inspire young people like myself to advocate for others. It's very necessary.
Jamaill Burl, YAC member:
Good afternoon, my name is Jamaill Burl, and I am a part of the Youth Action Council at the Osborne Association. I am honored to have taken part in the YAC program this year with my peers. I wanted to also say thank you to Diana Archer, Tres Meyers, and my grandmother for referring me to this program. This year in the YAC we learned a lot of different things. One of things I most enjoyed learning about was how to express myself. We did a workshop about making art where we created a drawing of ourselves. I thought I didn’t know how to make art, but I learned how to trace the lines of a selfie to make a self portrait. It was funny because when I arrived that day I thought was going to be bored. But then I tried it, and I really liked it. When I saw the final product I was surprised that it looked good. It felt real good to see that I could do it. Another thing I like about the YAC was the trip to Escape the Room we did at the end of the year. All of us had to work together and think hard to get out. We ALMOST made it out. We were really close and it was the hardest room, so I don’t feel bad.
In the YAC, we learned about the political process, about senators and assemblymembers, and how laws get passed. This year, I had the chance to go to Albany twice. The first time, my peers and I took the bus up to Albany with another youth organization called Youth Represent to advocate for the Raise The Age bill. This bill would raise the age of criminal responsibility for youth to 18. I was nervous at first, but as I talked to the senators I overcame the fear. I got used to it as I kept talking to more people. I shared my story to explain that we still have an unfair justice system. I wanted them to know that you can’t send youth to an adult prison at such a young age for petty crimes because their minds aren’t fully developed till the age of 25, and some kids can’t handle the experience. Because of our work alongside many organizations and lawmakers the bill was passed this year! The second time I went to Albany, we got on a train, THANK GOD! There was a longer line to get on the train, but at least I could lean back in the seat! This time, I was more prepared. The YAC was advocating for the Proximity Pilot Bill which would bring parents who are incarcerated closer to home. We also wanted to advocate for free buses to facilities upstate. We had more time and talked to more people by splitting up. We then converged our ideas and strategy to have a bigger impact. We had lunch with Senator Gustavo Rivera, one of senators who wrote the Proximity Pilot Bill. We all felt that we had a responsibility over the bill and were treated as experts.
We had fun this year in the YAC, and we had new faces. I learned about the Children of Incarcerated Parent’s Bill of Rights, how to be on time, how to get prepared for college, how to write poems, and about different careers. Thank you Osborne for this program and for supporting us.
Thank you to Echoes of Incarceration for the photos and to St. James for hosting.
If you’d like to know more about the YES and YAC programs, visit Children & Youth Services.