Partner Spotlight: e2 Education + Environment
In this Florida Times Guest Column, Andrea Davis highlights the benefits of our partner e2 education + environment‘s This is Ours program.
Girls in detention share stories
By Andrea Davis
“I came into the Department of Juvenile Justice System when I was 13 years old. I am now 18. Growing up I lived in a bad neighborhood that didn’t make getting into trouble hard.
“As a young teenager I committed many crimes and used many drugs. I committed burglaries, grand theft, battery, possession, robberies and several violations of probation. It’s hard to want to want to live when you used to (this life). It seems like all my teenage years have been filled with just violence, pain and barbed wires.”
“After a point, I start thinking ‘when will it be enough?’ It’s hard to change when everything is still the same, but someone once told me that it takes one light bulb to light up a dark room, and if I don’t believe in change, change won’t believe in me.”
So begins a unique book, “This is Ours: Martin Girls Academy,” which was funded through a grant from The Cummer Family Foundation. The Delores Barr Weaver Policy Center received the grant to work with e2 education + environment using their This is Ours Project model with teens within the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice System’s Martin Girls Academy in Martin County.
It provides young girls with the ability to share their experiences in juvenile detention with a wide audience that may never have been touched by the criminal justice reality for about 1,900 youth in residential commitment programs in Florida.
“Many times, when girls are sent away from our community, we no longer remember to include their voice” said Inderjit Vicky Basra, L.M.S.W, the Jacksonville policy center’s senior vice president.
The book is an outgrowth of the policy center’s use of grants to help fund projects and education that helps improve the lives of girls. For this project, the policy center provided a grant in the amount of $12,000.
“The grant we received is part of the contract we have with the Delores Barr Weaver Center to operate the prevention program known as Girl Matters: It’s Elementary,” said Amanda Slama, the deputy communications director for the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice.
The Policy Center applied and received a grant from The Cummer Family Foundation, and then the Policy Center worked with e2 education + environment using their This is Ours Project model with teens within the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice System’s Martin Girls Academy in Martin County.
Since the experience of being locked away in a facility is known to a slim number of people, the policy center’s Basra said she hopes to use this book about the experience of the lives of incarcerated girls to educate others about what happens within a juvenile institution.
“It gives them an opportunity to share their stories and voices in a creative way,” Basra said. “It allows the community to see the girl. This will hopefully help people see what our girls experience when they are sent away.”
Twenty girls and young women, ages 14 to 20, created the contents of the book over three days in the summer of 2017. Titone, Eagle and two members of the policy center were on hand to help the girls create the content.
“As a group, they felt it was essential to represent both hardship and transformation,” the book’s introduction reads.
The book contains stories, photos, poems and drawings about the life these girls knew outside and behind the bars they now know as home. The contents depicts the creators as brilliant, creative, diligent and hopeful.
Both Basra and Slama said the book is meant to explain to those on the outside what it is like for people on the outside. It is to help educate the public or community of what facilities these girls have access to, what it is like to be away from families and how they are treated.
“This is Ours: Martin Girls Academy” is divided into five sections, one of which is about obstacles. There is a story within the book about a young girl who shares her previous use of drugs and what it was like to experience withdraw in a rehab center.
“In my life I have overcome a number of obstacles,” one segment reads. “I remember the experience of walking up to a detox facility, body trembling, cold sweat running down my back, wondering if quitting is worth going through withdrawals.”
The book “combines digital photography, storytelling and illustrations to communicate personal knowledge about one’s local environment,” Basra said.
A cultural chapter in the book covers the stories of a girl who is Hispanic and how she celebrates Christmas as well as stories of black girls who keep reminding themselves of their strength. Other chapters include Environment and Entertainment.
“These girls can be seen as a role model to other girls as they keep a positive and hopeful attitude,” Basra said. “They have goals that they want to achieve and within these stories, they share their plans on how to reach them.”
The book is available for purchase online at: bit.ly/2qWZQNi.
A second book is currently in the works from another as-yet-unnamed facility. “The plan is for the girls at that facility to trade books with the girls at the Martin Girls Academy as a type of pen pal trade,” Basra said.
“This is Ours: Martin Girls Academy” ends with a section called Grace. In it holds words of wisdom, from one of the incarcerated girls.
“Grace means to be elegant, classy, to be respectful to not just others, but ourselves as well.
“To respect my body. To overcome the obstacles in my life. To identify growth and change. Also, to know what I did wrong and to take accountability for my actions and to correct my mistakes. To focus on who I am and what I want to be.
“To understand what my purpose is in life. To understand that I am priceless, beautiful and irreplaceable.
“Grace means to be honest and real. To hurt someone with truth then comfort them with a lie. The reason I believe this is because of who I am.”
Andrea Davis is a senior at the University of North Florida majoring in multimedia journalism.
CORRECTION: This column reflects the fact that there are about 1,900 youth in residential commitment programs in Florida. An earlier edition of the column referred to about 60,000 youths who have been arrested in Florida.
Originally Source: <a href=”http://www.jacksonville.com/opinion/20180513/guest-column-girls-in-detention-share-strories”>The Florida Times Union</a>