Book Review: ‘Vicious: True Stories by Teens about Bullying’

This anthology of 21 true stories by teens in Youth Communication’s highly regarded New York City writing program boasts a stylish new paperback design and a new publisher, Free Spirit, known for cutting-edge books about “kids’ social, emotional, and educational needs.” It’s an update of Youth Communication’s 2009 edition, Sticks and Stones, containing eight new stories, five of which address cyberbullying issues not covered in the earlier book. Thirteen stories are reprinted. An introduction explains that the stories explore the effects of bullying in any form – “physical violence or verbal or online harassment” – from one or more of three perspectives: the bully, the bystander or witness, and the target. By clarifying the actions that overcame tough situations, these young writers “hope that telling their stories will help readers who are facing similar challenges.”

The opening story’s author is among three who chose to write anonymously. From her secure circle of girlfriends – Felicia, Michelle, and Brittany – she flashes back three years to explore her title: “Why Are Girls So Mean?” As freshmen, these girls got tired of Brittany’s long, boring stories, which they criticized behind her back.

DC Reforms Offer Some Kids New Beginning

New center models holistic, age-appropriate, therapeutic approaches
LAUREL, Md. — A few years ago, facilities manager Carl Matthews rounded a corner inside a residential unit of a secure juvenile center near Washington, D.C., and came across the dangling body of a boy who had, moments earlier, hung himself from the metal pipes that crisscrossed the ceiling of his room. A sheet was wrapped so tightly around the boy’s throat that Matthews was afraid to cut it with an emergency knife. “I hoisted him up and another guy got his fingers in and we got him down. But that night was what haunted me,” Matthews said.

Heading off Abusive Relationships

When I was a young adult, I was in an abusive relationship. I didn’t realize it then, of course. I was swept off my feet and completely giddy, as most new relationships tend to begin. My boyfriend seemed equally infatuated, spending money taking me to expensive restaurants and holding my hand through walks in the park. I was so swept away that I didn’t notice when he slowly became emotionally abusive, and started stalking me by texting and calling me constantly, demanding answers to emails immediately.

‘Statistics’ isn’t a Scary Word; Just do the Math

Statistics has a bad reputation in some quarters, including, unfortunately, sometimes among people working in youth services. I’m not sure if this is due to an unfortunate experience in a required undergraduate class, a feeling that cold, hard numbers can’t possibly represent the complexity of human reality, or the suspicion that numbers can be manipulated to support absolutely any point of view. Whatever the source, it’s a problem because thinking clearly and making reasoned decisions often requires the ability to understand numerical arguments. What can an understanding of statistics do for youth services workers? Lots of things, of course, but one big contribution statistics can make is provide a context for individual cases.

Truancy Needs Early and Innovative Intervention

Skipping school – perhaps that makes you think of adventures with high school friends just to test your independence. Four of my high school pals skipped school one beautiful spring day and drove to a nearby mall. A DJ for a local radio station was in the midst of a live remote when he interviewed my friends about a new rock and roll group. Unfortunately, my buddies did not consider that the radio might be playing in the principal’s office. Unlike Ferris Bueller, my friends were caught in the act.

Fledgling NJ Program Paves a Path from Corrections to College

Prison-to-college initiatives might become more common in United States

A little more than a decade ago, then-22-year-old Danny Feliciano stood at the front end of a six-year sentence in a youth correctional facility for robbery. Today, the former inmate counsels young court-referred individuals as a Youth & Family Counselor at La Casa de Don Pedro Inc., a nonprofit agency that provides social services to the Hispanic community in Newark, N.J.

If you ask Feliciano what helped him make the 180-degree turn, after thanking God, he’ll tell you about the Mountainview Program that operates on the New Brunswick campus of Rutgers University. Though a fledgling program that is currently unfunded and staffed by volunteers, proponents describe it as one of the rare but vital portals that enable current and former inmates to move from the world of corrections to the world of college. Smoothing the path from prison to post-secondary education, the program provides current and former inmates from the Mountainview Youth Correctional Facility in Annandale, N.J., with academic advisement, advocacy in the college admissions process, and a positive peer group to help them stay the course. “That kind of seamless link doesn’t exist in any kind of real way, and a lot of research seems to call for it,” said Bianca Van Heydoorn, director of education initiatives at the Prisoner Reentry Institute at John Jay College of Criminal Justice within the City University of New York.

After the Tide Recedes

Agencies hit by Hurricane Sandy and other disasters recount road to rebuilding

Located virtually harbor-side in southwest Brooklyn, the Red Hook Community Justice Center faced a daunting set of challenges in the days and weeks after Hurricane Sandy last October. Red Hook’s entire youth programming space and computer lab were destroyed as 5 feet of water came gushing through the basement of the Center for Court Innovation, where the agency is housed, a public/private partnership between the New York State Unified Court System and the Fund for the City of New York. Red Hook was just one of many agencies displaced or impacted by the storm. It is unclear just how many – the Red Cross didn’t have updated statistics, and FEMA did not have this information. And its experiences, among others’, illustrate how youth organizations and other social services providers have to figure out how to manage after a natural disaster – and how others can be prepared to do so, in advance.

Book Review: ‘Tough Cookies: Leadership Lessons from 100 Years of the Girl Scouts’

In this engaging revelation of the organization behind the cookies, Girl Scouts’ national CEO Kathy Cloninger boldly envisions the future of women in America and inspires us to encourage girls to get there. The mint cookies that arrived with my review book revived warm memories of girlhood as a Brownie and Girl Scout. According to a national poll, Cloninger and I join two-thirds of professional women who share such memories. Few realize how pivotal the cookies are. The annual cookie sale, says Cloninger, is a “$700 million education program that brings to life Girl Scouts’ true brand: developing leadership in girls.”

We “fail to understand the mix of qualities that create great leadership, and the strengths that girls and women can contribute,” Cloninger says on the opening page of this galvanizing call to “invest strongly in our girls.” While the female half of our population provides only 3 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs and 17 percent of the U.S. Congress, Girl Scouts offers “a three-million-girl model of how to unleash and develop the powerful potential of girls,” she says.