A lush oasis in the middle of Harlem’s urban landscape, Harlem Grown is a community farm that provides a unique respite for children and adults in the neighborhood. This was certainly the case for friends and family of our eight Justice Plus graduates, who celebrated their successful completion of the Harlem Community Justice Center program on June 30, 2016.
Justice Plus is a collaboration between the Harlem Community Justice Center, the Department of Probation, and Save Our Streets. The program helps young adults from the area ages 16-24 build crucial work-readiness skills. Participants receive consistent mentorship and job-counseling from Jessica Bachman, our workforce development coordinator, as well as an opportunity to volunteer with Harlem Grown and receive a stipend. They graduate with work experience, references grounded in strong relationships, and hours of resume building and interview coaching; but most importantly, they build a positive association with the workforce through their work with Harlem Grown.
The graduation ceremony was a testament to the graduates’ hard work and immense progress. Mixed with the farm’s beautiful trees and tomato plants were perfectly constructed vegetable beds, wooden compost bins, that the Justice Plus graduates built. Jessica Bachman personalized speeches about each graduate’s individual challenges, successes, and growth made it obvious how much each participant had accomplished during the program, and the words that graduates shared upon receiving their diplomas celebrated Justice Plus for helping them make positive change in their lives.
“It feels good to wake up and feel successful,” declared Eugene, who received the Overall Achievement Award for his outstanding achievements during the program. Many other graduates echoed his sentiment, praising Justice Plus and Harlem Grown for providing help, guidance, and an opportunity to create and work towards new goals. “I have never received a certificate for anything before,” exclaimed Norberto as he proudly held up his new diploma.
Eugene, will be continuing as an employee at Harlem Grown. Other graduates announced successful job placements and certifications, as the Justice Plus team and the graduates’ guests beamed proudly from the audience.
Written by Tayla Nevins, Harlem Community Justice Center Intern.