This week Young New Yorkers held their second silent auction and annual fundraising event at Allegra LaViola Gallery in the Lower East Side in Manhattan. All proceeds from the auction went towards funding Young New Yorkers, an organization that seeks social justice and provides an alternative for young adolescents between the ages of 16 and 17 that are convicted as adults in the criminal justice system of New York.
Young New Yorkers, with the support of Brooklyn Defender Services, works with the criminal courts to allow eligible defendants to participate in one of their restorative court mandated programs as an alternative to jail time. The organization’s programs are geared to restore the sense of social responsibility and to develop emotional and behavioral skills through a series of 8 week workshops where they explore social relevant themes through creative art exercises and the completion of a positive social project of their choosing. Upon completion of the workshops participants avoid serving jail time and in many instances they have the charges dismissed as well.
In 2012 eight young New Yorkers were given the opportunity to participate for the first time in a pilot program. With a team of community leaders, psychologists and artists they were guided through the transformation process to a successful graduation resulting in the young participants to experience themselves as a creative and worthy part of the community instead of being submitted to the harsh adult criminal justice system.
This is the second year of the program which is run by an all-volunteer staff from an array of backgrounds whom have also harnessed the support of the street art community that has felt the need for a program like this first hand. As a show of support more than 60 local and international renowned artists like Lunar New Year, Shepard Fairey, Steven Holl, ESPO, and Swoon donated art pieces for the auction.
Young New Yorkers is a not-for-profit program that relies on donations to continue the workshops to assist adolescents. The project brings voice to youth in need and has also sparked a dialogue about the treatment of 16 and 17 year olds in the criminal justice system. In the end what is better; prosecuted and punished adolescents or worthy creative contributors to their communities?
For more information about how to donate or to learn how you can also help these adolescents please visit: www.youngnewyorkers.org