Friends of Island Academy

by on December 2, 2012

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Growing up I had a really good friend who was a bad kid. We got along great, but he always found a way to get into trouble. When we were about seven, my Mom told me a secret about him. She told me that he went to “children’s jail” where he only got bread and water. I wasn’t all that gullible, but I believed it because it was totally believable. I was scared straight. What I’ve learned since is that kids don’t go to jail for “being bad,” but there is a cycle of incarceration in some of our communities that starts at a very early ages. Recidivism rates tell us that a young person who incarcerated for the first time is highly likely to be incarcerated again. Friends of Island Academy is a New York, NY based non-profit “center for youth development dedicated to breaking cycles of incarceration.” They work with “adolescents who attend school on Rikers Island every year” to “guide their trajectory to becoming economically independent young adults, connected to their communities in positive way.”

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It’s hard for me to imagine that there are teenagers who are serving a prison sentence and going to high school at the same time, but there are thousands at Riker’s Island alone. While what Friends of Island Academy does is typically defined as “post-release services,” they actually start pre-release to ensure that their members are given the best chance “to advance their education and improve their health and well-being, relationships and overall prospects to becoming economically independent, connected to their communities in positive ways.” The programs started in 1990, so it has had the opportunity to change quite a few lives since. Here are some stories from members. If you are interested in being a part of what Friends of Island Academy does, check out their internships on Idealist. Right now they’re looking for a Development Intern. They don’t say, but I’ll bet it’s unpaid.

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