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Nonprofit gets $1 million grant to turn youth from crime

Juliana D. Norwood | 11/23/2011, 5 p.m.

Centinela Youth Services (CYS) is a nonprofit community-based organization established in 1975 by the cities of Hawthorne, Lawndale, Inglewood, Gardena, and the County of Los Angeles.

Since 1992 the organization has become a leading agency in providing a variety of mediation and conflict resolution services to some of the most vulnerable youth.

CYS utilizes a system of services to teach youth to resolve conflicts without aggression at home, school, and in their community in order to reduce the number of youth attached to the juvenile justice system.

CYS has trained more than 8,000 student and 1,000 adult volunteer mediators; completed more than 2,000 mediations between youth offenders and their victims; and restored communication and respect between nearly 3,000 youth and their parents.

Recently the organization's efforts were recognized by the Everychild Foundation, a nonprofit group of more than 200 Los Angeles women who each contribute dues of $5,000 a year. This money is pooled to make a single annual $1 million grant to an agency serving children facing disease, abuse, neglect, poverty or disability.

"Getting the grant from the Everychild Foundation really was happenstance in the way it occurred," said CEO of Centinela Youth Services, Jan Vogel. "The old manager of CYS actually had an acquaintance over at Everychild and that is how we found out about the grant. They encouraged us to apply, we did and hoped for the best. We worked so well together because with our primary focus being mediation for youth, we were in line with the goals of the Everychild Foundation."

The funding will be used to open and operate the Everychild Restorative Justice Center in 2012, located across the street from the Inglewood Juvenile Courts. The goal is to coordinate with the Courts, LAPD, Inglewood and Hawthorne police, as well as L.A. County Sheriffs and Probation departments to divert more than 1,200 south L.A. teens from the juvenile justice system into rehabilitative programs.

"This very generous grant from Everychild Foundation will bring desperately-needed resources for programs and services that are proven effective in changing delinquent behaviors and attitudes and, ultimately, reducing repeat offenses and re-arrests," said Vogel.

The Everychild Restorative Justice Center will operate under the principals of restorative justice, which have proven effective in reducing recidivism through mediation services that bring victims, youth offenders and community volunteer mediators together to learn from and repair the harm caused by crimes.

Other services will include counseling, job training and academic assistance to place teens on a pathway to success at school, at home and in their communities.

"Right now we don't get any referrals from the courts, it is typically from families, schools, and sometimes law enforcement. This partnership with the courts will enable us to directly help youth who need it the most. In addition to mediation, there will be work with social workers, public council, and getting individuals who have dropped out of school to get back in," said Vogel.

The Everychild Restorative Justice Center will be operated under the auspices of Presiding Judge Michael Nash of Los Angeles Juvenile Court, an innovative leader in juvenile justice and child welfare reform. "There is no other program like this here in Los Angeles, it will save the courts time; it will save court costs and most of all it will save lives of the most vulnerable youth," said Nash.

"We have had a lot of success with Centinela Youth Services; the main thing is that we are successful at making sure individuals who were involved in crimes don't repeat those same crimes. Our recidivism rate is very low, and we have high expectation that this new center will help us to better accomplish our goals," said Vogel.

For more information on the Everychild Restorative Justice Center, call Jan Vogel at (310) 970-7700.