I think if people knew the court-involved kids like I do, they wouldn’t have as many judgements of them. They are really good people. I forget that they’ve gotten into trouble." ~Laurenzo, AFJ Preventive Client
Avenues for Justice (AFJ) works with African American and Hispanic youth, ages 13–24. Our participants live across New York City and have active legal matters or are at risk of involvement in the criminal justice system. AFJ provides court advocacy and wholistic crime prevention programs for education, employment and mentoring, as well short-term help to those in need.
While most participants are ages 16 to 20, we’re seeing an increase in younger participants – for the past two years, 26% of new participants have been ages 13 to 15. And up until the pandemic when we had to close our community centers, 40% of our population were at-risk youth.
This week we are highlighting one of our younger participants and a star in our crime prevention program: 15-year-old Laurenzo. Why are you so dedicated to AFJ’s program?
Part of the reason I am so dedicated is my mother—she is incredibly dedicated to AFJ and pushes me to go. However, even without my mom I would still go because I have really grown to like the workshops and I enjoy the information that I am learning.
What workshop have you learned the most in?
I think I have learned the most in our Steps to Success Job Readiness Workshops. Lately, we have been learning about how to prep for job interviews: what to wear, how to act, and what to say.
I am really detail oriented and our instructors say that that’s really important for job interviews.
What’s your favorite workshop?
Definitely Creative Writing with Nina! I started writing in 7th grade but ever since I started taking her workshops, I have learned a lot and improved my writing skills. My favorite things to write are poetry and fan fiction for my favorite shows and comics!
What has it been like being a part of AFJ for over 4 years?
I have really started to think of these people as family. They have helped me a lot and I am really grateful for that. I think if people knew the court-involved kids like I do, they wouldn’t have as many judgements of them. They are really good people; I forget that they’ve gotten into trouble.
Do you think you can be a leader in the group for new ATI youth?
Definitely. I would tell them that this program is trying to help you and help you grow and be successful in life. I would also say that AFJ is here to help you stay out of trouble because I am pretty sure they don’t want you to go back to court again.
What do you want to be when you are older?
I really want to be a paleontologist and a writer on the side. I am really excited to go to school for both of them, I have even started doing my own research! We are thrilled about the progress Laurenzo is making and are excited to see his name in future books about dinosaurs!