Division of Juvenile Justice, Rehabilitation

Youth Peer Mentor Program graduates aim to help others

A young man accepts a certificate and another speaks at a podium.
A youth from O.H. Close Youth Correctional Facility, left, receives his Youth Peer Mentorship Certificate, a stepping stone to potential employment as a Substance Use Disorder Certified Counselor. At right, a youth from the Northern California Youth Correctional Facility expresses pride during graduation ceremonies while reciting a poem he was inspired to write.

By Michael Sicilia, Deputy Press Secretary
Division of Juvenile Justice

Eleven youth from the Northern California Youth Correctional Center in Stockton graduated from a five-week training program that provides recovery support to peers with substance use disorders.

The youth participated in more than 100 hours of classroom instruction and untold study hours on their own in topics like Denial Management, Criminal Thinking, 12-Step Orientation, Relapse Prevention, Trauma-informed Care, Motivational Interviewing, Case Management and Youth Mental Health First Aid Certification, among others.

The program was developed with a grant from the California Department of Health Care Services and is part of an effort to stem the opioid epidemic in the U.S.

Former Division of Juvenile Justice Director Chuck Supple told the graduates that their newfound skills are in imperative part of community restoration. “Studies have shown that those who have been successful in desisting from criminal behavior “absolutely have to go out and help other people. That was their passion—that was their drive—that that was their mission.”

Supple said the program serves a foundational training for future professional employment in the substance use treatment counselling field.

 “I’m proud of you guys,” said Keith Aldrich, Program Manager of Continuity Consulting, who developed and facilitated the curriculum though a team of instructors and experts, “You all did the hard work.”

Youth will put their skills to work co-facilitating groups and supporting others one-on-one with their new peer mentoring skills and earning practicum hours towards the 160-hour certification requirement.

Aldrich says Continuity Consulting is currently working on establishing community partnerships to assist youth with reentry and finding employment in the addiction counseling field, along with additional education, housing, and other support services.

The youth seemed to revel in their accomplishment, which included voluminous reading materials and soul-searching internal and group work. Several youth gave heartfelt remarks at commencement ceremonies noting the experience was revelatory and life-changing.

Youth O. Moreno said he learned how early childhood trauma impacted his life. A product of a series of foster homes, “I had a mindset that I was a nobody and I always was going to be alone.” But, Moreno said, the last five weeks opened his eyes. “I did things I never did before. I studied, I took notes. This is my first time being incarcerated, and I want it to be my last.”

Youth will go on to put their skills to work co-facilitating groups and supporting others one-on-one with their new peer mentoring skills and earning practicum hours towards a 160-hour certification requirement. Continuity Consulting will continue to establish community partnerships assisting youth with reentry and finding employment in the addiction counseling field, along with additional education, housing, and other support services. Plans are in the works to launch a second cohort in the late fall to build upon the success of this first group.