Last week, as they had done many times before, Hope Collaborative volunteers began meeting with students involved in Kentucky’s Pretrial Court Diversion Program. This time, however, the meeting was different. This time, the meetings were done through an internet connection.
Over the past month, amidst school closings and social-distancing measures, Hope Collaborative has been working with both the Court Designated Worker Program (CDW Program) and the Administrative Office of the Courts, to put together online versions of their Community Works Workshops. These workshops, which are a part of the Court Diversion Program, are designed to educate and empower kids who are working to have non-violent misdemeanors expunged from their records.
While education and accountability are key components of the Community Works program, the long-term hope is that, through these workshops, participants are able to develop relationships with caring adults who both support them and see past any legal charge or past decision. In just the two years of operation, there have already been many cases of these relationships continuing with Hope Collaborative volunteers even after the workshops have been completed.
With still many restrictions and shelter-in-place orders in effect, the new online format has presented many new challenges. Engagement and discussion through technology simply is not the same as compared to the in-person sessions that used to take place at three different locations within Jefferson and Oldham County. Despite these obstacles, however, the opportunity remains the same.
Even just a few weeks into curriculum, volunteers have already begun reporting positive interactions and observable changes in participants. In one group, each student was able to share and answer questions about their future goals. Talks of attending college or graduating high school were not only encouraged, but discussion around short-term goals and steps to achieve these dreams were also fleshed out. All of these interactions, despite taking place through a screen, were tiny steps toward change.
After completing the program, every participant will not only be given a certificate of completion, but will also be one step closer to wiping away a past mistake that could have impeded on a bright future. Thanks to the blessing of technology and the hard work of both Hope Collaborative volunteers and CDW Program staff, that process won’t have to be delayed.
Written by: Jason Allen
Hope Collaborative Staff