"LearningWorks gave me a chance to get out in the community and do something positive." PJ Sanguedolce
PJ was first introduced to LearningWorks in 2014 by the staff at Long Creek Youth Development Center (LCYDC). He was part of a group of young men who had graduated from high school while at LCYDC and were in need of constructive opportunities in the community before leaving. PJ and other youth like him often use this time to participate in LearningWorks Service Works Program as a means to gain additional work experience and reintegrate back into the community.
Service Works offers juvenile offenders the opportunity to make amends for infractions through community service, restorative justice dialogue, and self-reflection. Program participants spend time writing about their experiences, setting goals for the future, and giving back to the community through opportunities like volunteering for a homeless shelter or food pantry, serving a community meal, or rehabilitating a public space.
Reflecting back on his experience, PJ says what means the most to him are the relationships he formed with local business owners and others in the community. "One of my community service jobs was to remove graffiti from buildings as part of the Service Works program." PJ's natural, outgoing demeanor was helpful in his ability to engage with business owners; at each worksite, he introduced himself with a smile and a handshake. "I acquired new technical skills while participating in Service Works and learned a lot about area nonprofits and businesses in my community."
Young people like PJ who have run-ins with the law often feel alienated from their communities; having the opportunity to experience a sense of belonging and connection through meaningful work reduces recidivism rates and helps set youth on a path toward a brighter future.
Since participating in our Service Works program, PJ has remained connected to his community, and his days in the corrections system are behind him. Youth engaged with the Service Works program have a success rate of 97% of not becoming re-involved in the juvenile justice system.
PJ is currently working in Biddeford and hopes to start a new job in construction this spring. "I think it is important for me to do my best day by day and to stay busy and keep working."
Courtesy - Angie Devenney Photography