On May 11th, the Justice Community Plus (JCP) hosted its first graduation at Repair the World for sixteen participants, their families and friends. During this event, graduates were celebrated for working extremely hard to increase their knowledge and awareness of setting career goals and becoming more prepared for employment opportunities. Truly, it was a long-awaited celebration that spoke to level of commitment illustrated by each JCP graduate throughout their time in the program.

With nearly sixty people in attendance, the evening was filled with love, laughter, and heartfelt emotions. From the welcoming part of the event, through the passionate speech given by Senator Jesse Hamilton, and to the panel discussion and speeches given by two JCP graduates, the power and   importance of such an evening was captured. These activities were engaging and held everyone’s attention throughout.

The panel portion of the night featured four speakers:  Rachel Black, Licensed Social Worker who specializes in clinical and direct service work with youth and families in Brooklyn. Ebony Underwood, social entrepreneur, filmmaker and Founder and CEO of WEGotUsNow, a powerful movement built by, led by and for children of incarcerated parents. Salih Israil, Data Analyst and Recruitment and Attainment Specialist for the Bard Microcollege at the Brooklyn Public Library. Shayquan Moody, Violence Interrupter for S.O.S. Bed-Stuy.

During the discussion, each panelist inspired our youth by responding questions such as what is like growing up in your community and what experiences influenced your career choices? What advice would you give youth who find it hard to secure employment? Whom or what empowered you and kept you pushing forward? In sum, they gave responses that were powerful.

Another highlight from the evening occurred when a short inspirational video was shown, featuring JCP staff acknowledging the graduates with memories and words of encouragement. As the graduates watched this video, they smiled; they laughed; they pointed. But most importantly, they listened.  Following the short inspirational video, a photo collage displaying different photos of their time in the program was shown, and this collage really brought on the laughter. Scroll down to watch the video.

Overall, the evening filled with happiness and everyone enjoyed themselves. As the night began to wind down, each graduate received their JCP certificates along with certificates of recognition from State Assemblywoman Diana Richardson and Senator Jesse Hamilton. Youth were also given professional portfolios to take with them in their pursuits of education and employment and were gifted vouchers for free professional haircuts and work attire. Five lucky graduates also won Kindle Fire tablets in a raffle! We thank everyone for coming out to support the accomplishments of our JCP youth.  To learn more about the Justice Community Plus program and to enroll in the summer cycle, go to crownheights.org/jcp or contact yosos@crownheights.org.