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Donald Wilson (left) and Joshua Thomas (right) recently completed their California Justice Leader service year and both received full-time job opportunities.

 

In 2019, the Michelson 20MM Foundation awarded a Spark Grant to Impact Justice for its innovative California Justice Leaders (CJL) program. CJL was the first-of-its-kind AmeriCorps program specifically designed for young adults who have been justice involved. The program leverages a best practice, peer-to-peer credible messenger model to support currently incarcerated youth in pursuing the Department of Justice’s honorable discharge program. The three-year program recruited, placed and employed 42 adults with prior criminal or juvenile justice involvement for a year of paid service in a community-based organization in Los Angeles, Fresno and Sacramento counties. 

Throughout their year of service, members received a monthly living allowance as well as significant leadership training and professional development opportunities. The program creates win-win solutions as not only did CJL Americorp members set themselves up for success in future employment, they also gained a service mentality by supporting current justice involved youth in navigating reentry and connecting them to resources. Graduates of CJL join an elite group of Americorp service members, forever bolstering their resume and network.

Read on to learn more about the experiences of two CJL Americorp members who recently completed their service year. 

The following is reprinted with permission from the California Justice Leaders program. Check out the CJL Alumni Summer Newsletter for more.

Donald Wilson (above left) and Joshua Thomas (above right) completed their CJL service year in 2020 and both received full-time opportunities to work at their placement site, the AMAAD (Arming Minorities Against Addiction & Disease) Institute. We caught up with both of them to learn more about their journeys post-CJL and all of the incredible work they are doing to support the community.

Donald Wilson, Health Educator/Outreach specialist, AMAAD:

Donald knew that he wanted to work in a space where he could continue to support Black and Brown communities. He now engages with youth from the ages 18-29 in HIV testing, leadership building, and health and wellness intakes. He enjoys having the opportunity to meet new people and hear about their life experiences. Donald hopes to continue to provide people with the utmost care and respect—that no matter what walk of life they take, they will have support and resources to help them better in life.

Joshua Thomas, Outreach Specialist/HIV Care Coordinator, AMAAD:

Joshua is at the forefront of change among marginalized communities in South Los Angeles. He was given the opportunity to support with the launch of The ROAR Project, which is designed to mentor and de-stigmatize mental health for individuals ages 18-24 who are system-involved, experiencing homelessness or housing instability. Joshua hopes to obtain his master’s degree in counseling so that one day he can start his own top leading private practice that influences the masses through inspiration, motivation, and testimonials.

Lucy Bobenrieth, 2020 California State University, Fresno Graduate, B.A. in Sociology

Lucy was a 2020 participant of the CJL AmeriCorps Program. She began her CJL journey with Project Rebound at Fresno State as her placement site.

“Being a first-generation college student, it was important for me to get my bachelor’s degree so that future generations and my family can see that anything is possible,” Lucy said. 

“Throughout her service year, Lucy remained committed to both CJL and her education in the face of numerous obstacles,” said Mel Flanagan, the Northern California regional manager for the California Justice Leaders–AmeriCorps project. “Not everyone would have stuck with it, and this degree is a testament to that dedication. I know Lucy will use her education and CJL experience to do incredible things in the future.”

Michelson 20MM is a private, nonprofit foundation seeking to accelerate progress towards a more just world through grantmaking, operating programs, and impact investing. Co-chaired and funded by Alya and Gary Michelson, Michelson 20MM is part of the Michelson Philanthropies network of foundations.