Access Youth’s mission is to empower vulnerable youth with the tools they need to stay in school, graduate on time and avoid the justice system, through mediation and restorative justice. For the last fifteen years, our overarching goal has been to ensure that DCPS students in under-served communities are empowered to graduate prepared for success in life.
Access Youth envisions an equitable education system where all students obtain the academic and emotional support, they need to achieve their highest potential. We seek to lead the way in shifting the school community culture away from exclusionary discipline that further disenfranchises minority students, and towards a restorative justice-based approach, which has the long-term effect of disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline and ensuring that every student graduates from high school. Our goal has always been––and remains––to disrupt the systemic inequities that pervade the lives of our youth of color.
Access Youth was founded in 2009 with our Arrest Prevention Program- a restorative-justice-based alternative to prosecution for low-level, first-time juvenile offenders. We quickly realized that program participants were also being suspended at high rates and for long periods, becoming disengaged with school, becoming truant and ultimately dropping out. To combat this trajectory, in 2011, we partnered with DCPS to reach students at an earlier point when they first exhibited signs of truancy or participated in behaviors that would lead to suspension or arrest. We launched our Restorative Justice in Schools and Truancy Prevention Programs to reduce, truancy, suspension and dropout and increase graduation rates. Now, fifteen years later, more than 7000 students have participated in our school-based programs at Anacostia, Ballou, and Eastern and HD Woodson high schools and Kramer and Johnson Middle Schools and statistically have higher rates of attendance, GPA and promotion rates than their peers. Keeping students in school and available for instruction is the cornerstone of our mission.
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