Peers help serve island kids through Youth Court

More than 120,000 youth volunteers listened to more than 130,000 juvenile cases in Youth Courts in 2007.

Those were the figures stated in a mayoral proclamation celebrating September as National Youth Court Month, the sixth national observation since the program was established.

Kaua‘i joins the previously stated figures as Youth Court judges Max Graham Jr. and Angela Anderson listen to student lawyers argue cases before them.

Youth courts address offenses that might otherwise go unaddressed until the offending behavior escalates, and in many states, reduce caseloads for the juvenile justice systems.

According to the Youth Courts Web site, there are 1,255 youth court programs in 49 states and the District of Columbia. The only state that does not have a program is Connecticut.

The mayoral proclamation states that more than 20,000 adults volunteered to facilitate peer justice in youth court programs.

Esther Solomon, one of the youth court coordinators on hand for the proclamation, said the students who assume the role of student lawyers take their responsibility seriously, demonstrating that a fundamental correlation exists between youth service and lifelong community involvement.

Volunteer service and related service learning opportunities enable young people to build character and develop and enhance life skills such as responsibility, decision-making, time management, teamwork, public speaking and leadership.

These are attributes which are part of the resume employers seek in a prospective employee.

The proclamation states that the United States is built on strong communities in which all citizens play an active role and invest in the success and future of the nation’s youth, and the National Youth Court celebration touts the achievements of the youth court programs locally as well as nationally.

The Youth Courts Web site states that the children, youth and families are better off as a result of the 77 individuals from 20 states that comprise the Board of Trustees and the National Committees of the National Association of Youth Courts.

For more information, visit the Youth Courts Web site at www.youthcourt.net.

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