Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Not a year in review, but a look forward

As much as I enjoy reading retrospectives of a year gone by, I'm not much for writing them myself. I prefer to think ahead to the upcoming year when I can write some resolutions, map out some ideas, and keep striving for that "someday," even if my idea of "someday" changes.

I also like resolutions because I like lists. Oh the joys of lists! I have somewhere to keep track of things and can keep a visual track of my progress. In honor of my love for list-making, here's my list of resolutions for 2010.
  1. Write more/become a better writer.
    Each year I like to focus on a particular hobby. In 2009, I wanted to spend more time scrapbooking; the result was a beautiful gift for my brother and new sister-in-law that captured every moment of their new marriage from proposal through honeymoon. For 2010 I vow to work on my writing. Practice makes perfect and though I love writing, I don't do it enough. This year's goal? Post to IT&O at least once a week. I can do it! Give me some topic ideas in the comments...

    I'd also like to take up journaling again. I like having a written record of my life to look back on and I like writing things down, but I just don't do it. I'd like to make journal writing a regular habit this year.

  2. Pay attention to the positive.
    For the past few year's I've kept a Good Thing of the Day book. Everyday I take a minute to jot down something that was good about the day. Some days it's amazing: "Chris and Jenni get married!" "Saw the opening night performance of Mamma Mia and met two cast members outside the theatre!" Some days more mundane: "Turkey club from Doyle's for lunch." "Hung out with Penelope." And some days a real stretch: "Went to bed early," "Didn't have to work late." The point, is to pay attention to the little things that make life worth living. It's important to me to remember why I love dogs wearing argyle sweaters or how much I enjoy seeing the Boston skyline as I drive into work each day. Those little things remind me not to dwell on the gloomy things in life.

  3. Get healthier.
    I always resolve to get healthier and this year is no different. It's an ongoing battle and one that everyone can relate to; I know it's on millions of people's lists of resolutions! Getting healthier doesn't have to be just about losing weight though. It can be about learning to like new foods (in 2009 I got over my dislike of bananas!), drinking more water, going to bed early, walking around the block every day... I hope to continue making little steps that will improve my well-being and not worry about the slip-ups like downing some soda or skipping the gym now and again.

  4. Do things for me.
    I want to travel this year, take some classes, learn new things, taste great foods, sing at the top of my lungs. I resolve to remember that life is short and that the list of things to do "someday" ought to start today.
And so I say goodbye to 2009 and hello to 2010. This year, as always, I resolve to make this year the best yet. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Girls gone wild: How you can help rescue our teenage girls

The presence of girls in the U.S. juvenile justice system is on the rise, even though the nation’s juvenile crime has decreased overall in the last two decades. While the rate of delinquency dropped 29% for males between 1985 and 2002, the rate of delinquency for females rose a whopping 92%.

Such a rate of female delinquency is shocking and diversionary programming must be implemented immediately in order to reverse the trend. In response to this crisis, the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security held a hearing in October entitled “Girls in the Juvenile Justice System: Strategies to Help Girls Achieve Their Full Potential.”

Dr. C. Jackie Jackson, Ph.D., executive director of Girls Inc. of the Greater Peninsula, addressed the Subcommittee. Throughout her speech, she underscored the need for juvenile diversionary programs, particularly for girls.

According to Jackson, “primary prevention is the most cost-effective way to address the problem of juvenile crime among girls.” In addition to providing a safe place to go after school, programs like Girls Inc. provide programs that focus on life and social skills, financial and media literacy, empowerment and self-esteem, academics, and wholesome fun. When adolescents participate in after-school programming, they are participating in positive activities and avoiding the peak times for juvenile crime, juvenile drug and alcohol use, and teenage sexual activity.

Diversionary programs like Girls Inc. are critical in ensuring that girls have an opportunity to avoid the juvenile justice system. Such programs are a cost-saving measure, investing in girls’ development instead of paying their way through the juvenile justice system. Jackson reports that nationwide estimates for housing one adolescent in a juvenile detention center range from $32,000 – $65,000 per year. In contrast, a year’s worth of programming at Girls Inc. (including both after school and summer programs) costs less than $2,000.

Though the return on investment of these preventative programs seems obvious, Girls Inc. and thousands of other juvenile diversion programs across the nation find themselves struggling for funding. Many adolescents participating in these programs come from low-income families and cannot afford to pay for services. It is crucial that both Congress and the community rally to support juvenile diversion programs that help children access education and keep them from winding up in the criminal justice system. It is especially critical to meet the needs of teenage girls who often find themselves lost in a juvenile justice system designed for teenage boys.

What can you do to help? Get vocal! Support your local juvenile diversionary programs by calling on your elected officials to fully fund essential programs and volunteer or donate when you can. You can find a list of representatives that make up the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, by visiting its webpage. To learn more about Girls Inc. and its programming, visit