Reine Duell Bethany - Author and Illustrator
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The Meaning of Work: New Hope for Young Offenders in Suffolk County, New York

A Monday, February 15 article in Newsday, the major Long Island Newspaper, details a program run by a youth court in Central Islip. The article is titled "Do the Right Thing." Thia youth court initiative is overseen by New York State Supremem Court Justice Fernando Camacho. To quote from the article, "It is a program designed to divert teens who commit felonies from a life shuttling between crime and punishment."
      The program succeeds because the young people who enter it aren't viewed as low-lifes. Instead, they are encouraged, reminded of their potential, and given ways to connect productively with their own communities via community service.
     In other words, this program gives these young people work, in the highest sense of the word: activity that touches others and changes their lives for the better. The touch may be light, the change may be small, but it is real.
     A job, or employment, gives a person a chance to earn money. However, if the job is boring, the treatment of employees disrespectful, and the connection of the job to one's life work invisible, then employment for young people will fail. Activities of community service give a youngster a chance to point at a real achievement and say, "I did that." These activities also give the young person a reason to smile, shake hands with everyday working adults, and be praised.
     May this program never run out of funds, and may its ilk spread.

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