It’s been a year of many exciting firsts for CYS and our community of clients. Some advances have come in response to the pandemic and to unanticipated social and political unrest. Others were the result of planned growth and development, and new levels of community engagement.
Thanks to you and to all our volunteers and supporters, CYS has continued to provide vital youth development programs and alternatives to youth expulsions, arrests, and incarceration without interruption. Though our staff and volunteers have been equally affected by the year’s exceptional challenges, they have rallied with effort and imagination to meet growing needs.
The importance of community involvement in the success of restorative justice inspired CYS to create our first live, public Zoom event: A Day of Reconciliation. The near overlap this year of Giving Tuesday and National Letter Writing Day prompted the CYS Board Communications and Fundraising Committee to consider a new idea: What if we were to take a cornerstone of restorative justice — the apology letter — and make it instrument for reconciliation between any two people in our community?
In countless CYS mediations, apology letters have fostered personal growth and development among our youth clients, and healed their relationships. The idea for a campaign and a Zoom/Facebook Live event was developed, and presented on December 7. Hosted by CYS volunteers Alicia Dunams and Danielle Sevilla, who were joined by CYS Executive Director Jessica Ellis, the event highlighted the themes of apology and restitution, underscored the beauty of reconciliation with moving youth testimonials, and featured excerpts from participants’ own letters of apology inspired by the event.
Throughout this month, CYS developed new opportunities for community engagement and appreciation. The Day of Reconciliation was followed a week later by CYS’s first volunteer recognition Zoom event, It Takes All of Us. CYS programs rely heavily on the inspired work of our volunteers, and the event was created to highlight those contributions. Participants in the live event were welcomed by hosts Aida Cerda and Patrick Yoergler, and treated to an entertaining, volunteer-centered year-in-review.
The one-hour celebration included words of welcome and appreciation by CYS Board Member and Hawthorne City Councilmember Olivia Valentine, who is also mediator with a long association with CYS. A special keynote address was presented by internationally-renowned mediator and author Ken Cloke. As one of the founders of CYS mediation programs, Ken’s recorded address inspired participants with a heartfelt exploration of the importance of volunteer mediation and with an impassioned urging to bring the experience and lessons of our personal lives to bear in the healing work of conflict resolution. CYS is grateful to Ken for joining us, and for the opportunity to engage in lively discussion and express our gratitude for the contributions of our volunteers. We couldn’t do our healing work without you!
In a year that has taken much from many of us, and put our commitments to greater tests, CYS is even more inspired by what we can all do together. As the year comes to a close, we are reminded that we continue to rely on the support of our community to keep CYS programs at the forefront of restorative justice in Southern California.
Though we are hopeful for better things in 2021, many families will have the work of recovery before them, and the need for our services will be greater than ever.
Please consider making a generous, tax-deductible contribution to the continued well-being of CYS programs and to the thousands of youth and families we will serve in the years ahead. You’ll be helping us to make a difference and to provide the transformative programs and care our children and communities deserve.
With our thanks and warm wishes for a happy and healthy New Year!