3 Goals For Our Juvenile Justice System Teen Programs

By Vianney Leon

Over the past four months, as the new coach of Girls in the Game’s teen programs at The Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center (JTDC), I’ve had the privilege of meeting over 20 girls whose perseverance inspires me.

Our teen program at JTDC creates a welcoming space where girls can feel comfortable being themselves and having fun as they create relationships with other teens in the center. This year we want to increase our support as girls transition back to their communities after leaving JTDC, collaborate with their friends and families on programs and continue to provide leadership opportunities for the girls. We’re excited to share our goals with you, below:

1. Monthly Saturday Programs

This year we hope to increase our support for the girls at JTDC by providing consistent programming for all teens involved in Girls in the Game programming during monthly Saturday programs. This is a unique opportunity for teens in our programs from all over Chicago to come together once a month. We encourage our JTDC girls to participate as they return to their communities as a chance to share their leadership, skills and talents with the rest of the teens involved with Girls in the Game.

2. Collaborating with Girls’ Friends and Families

We are also focused on increasing collaborations with the girls’ friends and families. A great example is our upcoming Self Care Night, which started as an idea from one of our participant’s aunts. Our Self Care Night will include discussing healthy coping strategies and eating body-nourishing snacks, followed by a hair tutorial by the aunt. It is a great event for the girls to showcase their leaderships skills and lead activities.

Friends and Family Days are my favorite events because the girls get to spend time with people who love them and make them smile. They are also an opportunity for me to connect with the families and exchange contact information to possibly collaborate in the future. When speaking with their families I learn about what activities the girls enjoyed doing back in their communities, their favorite restaurants and about their siblings. I also share any plans we have and the amazing work and discussions that the girls lead at the center. We are looking forward to collaborating with more friends and family to plan successful events with the girls this year.

3. Listening To The Girls

Most importantly this year, we will continue to listen to the girls’ input and provide leadership opportunities. The girls lead check-in circles, a designated time for them to discuss how they’re feeling, answer a silly question or share what the highlight of their day is so far. During our check-in circles, I have witnessed the girls providing each other with support and compassion. They also regularly choose health topics to discuss such as identity, body image and healthy relationships and sports to play such as volleyball, yoga and track.

They are also very interested in entrepreneurship and will have the opportunity to meet female entrepreneurs next month during our Leader to Leader event. Our panel includes Dorri McWhorther, CEO of YWCA Metropolitan Chicago and YShop vendors who curate goods and services such as jewelry, fashion, books and health products.

This panel is diverse in race and talents that will allow girls to receive a range of feedback to their questions about their journeys as entrepreneurs, challenges and career advice.

I am excited to continue to grow our program at JTDC, accomplish our goals and bring our Girls in the Game programs to the girls who need us most.

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