Now, as the new executive director of the Choose 180 Program, Sean wants to pay it forward by building supportive and healthy communities around youth.
The Choose180 Program was started with initial funding from the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s office in an effort to reduce the flow of youth into the juvenile justice system. When a first or second-time juvenile offender commits a low-level misdemeanor, King County prosecutors have the option to send them to a 180 workshop in lieu of filing charges against them.
The workshops focus on helping youth turn their lives around. In the workshops, Sean uses the analogy of streets and potholes to talk about life’s paths and asks participants to describe the ruts they are stuck in. What are some things that routinely hold them back? Can they imagine a different road that their lives could take, and, if they can, what choices do they need to make to get there?
“Young people are smart, but they lack the ability to see what they are stuck in. Most of what we do during the workshop is to create a space for them to identify and call out what the issues are and then come up with solutions for how to deal with the issues,” Sean says.
Ask Sean to share a success story about someone he’s worked with, and he’ll answer with a caveat. “Here’s the thing about that question,” Sean says. “As adults, we define success differently than a young person does. I could talk to you about people I’ve worked with who have made great choices: they’ve gone on to college and not reoffended again, and you’d say that is successful. It makes for a good narrative to talk about one kid who is very successful. I would tell you that every kid that I’ve ever worked with has experienced a new success in their life. I’ve had young people who have reoffended, but after they’ve reoffended, they’ve learned to make great choices, and then they’ve not reoffended again. What we all need is the ability to make a mistake in our lives, recognize the error of our way, and be connected with people who can help us see what the way out looks like.”
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