Lansing’s innovative YATA program empowers youth
- School-to-Prison Pipeline
- Child Welfare Crossover
- Mental Health
- Juvenile Defense
- Juvenile Competency
- In-Home Care Incentive
- PREA, Isolation, Restraint
- Youth in Adult System
- Juvenile Life Without Parole
- Youth Reentry
Author: Barry Lewis
Over the last decade, many Michigan communities have shifted to a community-based model of juvenile justice. Research consistently shows that juvenile justice programs that are delivered in-home or in community-based settings are less expensive than out-of-home placement and achieve better long-term outcomes for public safety and family well-being. Because of this, more local programs like mentoring, day treatment, and electronic monitoring, are being used to hold youth accountable and provide individualized treatment for the young people and their families.
Youth Advancement Through Athletics (YATA) is one example of an innovative community-based youth program in Michigan dedicated to preparing young people for a successful life outside of the justice system. YATA is a multi-faceted youth development program designed to improve the lives of Lansing youth through mentorship, athletics, community outreach, and career-driven activities. Founded four years ago by Michigan State University students, Marva Goodson and Jayme Danzig, YATA was formed as a way to combat truancy and increasing academic performance among the youth at Ingham Academy. Since its inception, YATA has been recognized by local leaders for its innovation and hard work on behalf of youth within the metropolitan area of Ingham County.
Through mentorship provided by undergraduate students from Michigan State, YATA works with youth at Ingham Academy, a day treatment center operated by the Ingham County Court, Ingham ISD and Highfields in the Lansing area. The student mentors carry out a 12-week strength-based mentorship with their assigned youth, focusing on increasing school attendance and developing pro-social skills.
Mentors are required to meet with the youth at least four hours per week over the course of the three-month program for a total of 12 full weeks. The mentors work with their youth on anything ranging from academics, career insights, and developing positive and healthy relationships amongst peers and family.
While the Ingham Academy youth benefit from a positive role model and mentor relationship, YATA student mentors also gain valuable life experiences. The MSU students learn about the sociological and psychological problems of marginalized and court-involved youth deal with. It helps the students diversify their undergraduate careers, allowing them to step outside the classroom and have a hands-on experience working with working with young people. To further entice enrollment of YATA volunteers, student mentors also receive school credit for their help.
Current students involved with the program are overjoyed with the work they do and feel passionately about YATA’s mission. Kayla Hoskins, current Community Outreach Coordinator and Teaching Assistant for YATA, describes exactly what the program does with the youth.
“YATA holds community outreach events where the youth participate in giving back to the community through volunteer work, alongside their mentors,” Hoskins says. “It is also encouraging the youth to graduate high school, and achieve higher education or obtain a career. The motivation provided to the youth encourages positive behavior, and deters recidivism.”
She says that the long-term goals from this program include decreasing truancy, decreasing recidivism, eventually expanding to help larger populations of youth as well as creating a section for girls, as all current participants are male. Hoskins says that she is thrilled to be involved with such a positive program. To her, YATA is an organization that does so much more than help the youth through athletics.
“YATA is important to me because it takes a strength-based approach to mentorship,” said Hoskins. “The youth are provided with an advocate to motivate them to set goals, behave positively, encourage education, and to provide resources to encourage pro-social skills and knowledge. This program takes the time to provide the youth with skills and perspectives that will help them in the present and in the future.”
Elena Brennan, current Co-Director of YATA, feels the program implements positivity among adjudicated teens in the community. She also feels the program provides a step in the right direction surrounding work with an at-risk population.
“With the participation of a multicultural Michigan State fraternity, YATA held a career day last year in order to assist the youth in our program with developing professional skills such as resume building, interviewing techniques and appropriate business body language,” said Brennan. “One of the coolest parts was to see the youth taking advantage of the skills being taught to them. For instance that day the youth were provided dress shirts and ties. The fraternity taught them how to tie-a-tie and minutes later, the boys were doing it on their own, excited about their new skill set.”
Learn more about community-based programming in Michigan
Learn more about Youth Justice Awareness Month