by Jessica Pittman
In April and May I had the privilege to be part of a My Life My Choice group in partnership with Youth for Christ at the Juvenile Justice Center. We had 13 girls go through about five weeks of group gatherings…and six of these girls identified themselves as part of the game on the first day.
Some sessions I wondered if they were learning from us as much as we were learning from them. Hearing them process and ask honest questions about the police, their rights, their bodies, and the potential dangers of the life that some of them were dabbling in was powerful.
The final evening was a heartfelt time of community leaders speaking into the girls’ lives and pouring out wisdom and words of life, in sincere efforts to reverse years of being told (with or without words) that they have no value. A few responses in their journals showed without a doubt the impact that had been made.
What will you do differently because you came to “My Life, My Choice?”
“Stop being the person I was and prove my family wrong, start respecting myself so I can stay strong and healthy.”
“Things I will do different is everything. I don’t want to continue in this life so therefore, I will use the resources given.”
In all honesty, there were moments when I had could see they some still were convinced that “it won’t happen like that to me” – even though they were starting to experience the realities first hand. Yet as the weeks went on, it was clear that most of them WERE changing their minds. Some – I would say most – truly wanted change, whether they were involved in trafficking already or not. Some sought out help during the group and some are still meeting with various community partners to get out.
Some are still part of the game.
“Change my lifestyle, change my actions, change my choices, change my life!”
The name of our program says it all. “My Life My Choice” – a nationally accredited, evidence based curriculum written by survivors, is tried and true. From our trainings and our hands on experience we see this program
sets the stage for change.
But at the end of the day, it’s their life, their choice.
The Justice Coalition is saying, WE EXIST TO GIVE THEM THAT CHOICE. Especially for girls this age, under 21 and still discovering who they are…they often have that choice taken away from them every day. Abusive parents, childhood trauma, family gang affiliation, drugs taken by their mothers before they were even born – these choices are made for them.
We are coming together presenting the choices they DO have. Here in the United States, most of them still have many choices before them, every day.
What choice will you make today that will directly or indirectly impact someone’s freedom?
CVJC’s next youth session is at Fresno First Baptist Church on June 15th. Contact CVJC or the church for more info. My Life My Choice starts the following week for girls only. Pray and partner with us!