Youth Voice partners with DHS to develop program

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Youth Voice met with the Michigan Department of Human Services. Pictured are (l-r) Trevon Stapleton, YV Student Fellow; Kari Johnson, YV Organizer;  Rasul Zakie, YV Student Fellow; Maura Corrigan, Director MI DHS; Cheyenne Walker, YV Student Fellow; Quentin McKinnon, YV Student Fellow; Kayla Mason, YV Lead Organizer; Terri Gilbert, Director of Child Welfare Funding and Juvenile Programs MI DHS.

The Michigan Department of Human Services (DHS) is partnering with Youth Voice to begin a peer-to-peer suspension prevention program in Detroit Public High Schools. The program is a part of Youth Voice’s campaign to break the School to Prison Pipeline, a disturbing national trend wherein children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

Youth Voice is investigating successful programs across the state and country to find what parts will work best in Detroit. They are also drafting a budget to see the cost of a peer-to-peer suspension prevention program pilot in five Detroit Public High Schools.

DHS, a strong ally to suspension prevention, launched their Pathways to Potential   program in Summer 2012, which put Family Resource Centers and caseworkers in elementary schools in Detroit, Flint, Pontiac and Saginaw. Youth Voice will be collaborating directly with the team that implemented these programs.

“What a pleasure it was to meet with this group of aspiring leaders, to hear their well-thought out proposal and to begin to work together to put practices in place to derail the School to Prison Pipeline,” said Terri Gilbert, Michigan Department of Human Services Director of Child Welfare Funding and Juvenile Programs. “What a great group of young men and women.”

“We need to focus on prevention. We need a culture shift that focuses on student achievement and gets at the core of a student’s needs. When you engage youth, ask questions and figure out why a student is misbehaving, you can give them the power to not become a statistic,” said Kayla Mason, Youth Voice Lead Organizer.

The partnership between Youth Voice and DHS is a product of the attention and momentum that Youth Voice received from the Detroit YOUTH Takeover, a 450 person march that launched the organization’s campaign against the School to Prison Pipeline. Following the march, Maura Corrigan, Director of Michigan Department of Human Services, arranged the meeting with Youth Voice to partner and discuss the future of the movement.