DePaul law and graduate counseling students spent five days at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC) working directly with residents and staff as part of the Spring Break of Service in Chicago Project.
DePaul law students and College of Education counseling students worked in small teams to teach lessons on civics, juvenile justice issues and juvenile expungement to the youth.
"Taking this opportunity to work with the JTDC residents, although at times frustrating and saddening, has further solidified why I want to work in a helping profession," explained counseling student Sanober Kanjee. "It has fueled me to continue to be passionate about advocating for those who cannot advocate for themselves and more importantly educating them on ways they can help themselves. I know my presence has not 'fixed' a person or a system but my hope is that I have positively impacted the lives of the youth that I've worked with and taken away a fraction of their distrust in adults and/or authority figures."
Each day before teaching, students met with various juvenile court personnel to learn more about the juvenile justice system in Cook County. For example, students met with several attorneys from the Juvenile Justice Bureau of the Cook County State's Attorney's Office and Law Office of the Cook County Public Defender. They also met with the detention center chaplain and a juvenile court judge.
Students found the service project informative and inspiring. "As someone who wants to work with children in the legal system, having this opportunity gave me a great amount of insight and perspective as to the challenges they are facing," said first-year student Rachel Migliore. "It’s easy to look at numbers of how many children are in the system, but entirely different to see their faces and hear their voices. This project gave a real face and name for me to all of the children in the juvenile justice system."