Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative Conference

The Annie E. Casey Foundation held its largest juvenile justice gathering to date in April 2017 when it hosted more than 900 policymakers and practitioners in Orlando, Florida, for the 23rd Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI) Inter-Site Conference.

School & Main Institute in partnership with Wheelock College’s Willie Rodriguez presented on the unique “Reimagining Juvenile Justice” pilot training we have developed for the Annie e Casey Foundation.  This workforce development model for professional in the field,  utilizes a “positive youth development mindset, with a cross systems approach”.  In addition to our presentation Willie Rodriguez received the Annie E. Casey Foundation's prestigious Natalie S. Bimel Award for his efforts to build a just and equitable youth justice system. The Natalie S. Bimel Award is one of four that the Casey Foundation bestowed in 2017 to results-driven and strategic reformers whose steadfast dedication to detention reform has improved the lives of youth. 

The three-day conference presented more than 40 workshops covering a range of juvenile justice topics. The conference was meant to inspire attendees to more fully and faithfully implement juvenile justice reform strategies, expand the reform toolbox and be intentional about sustaining the reforms and the collaborative, data-driven approach that has been at the heart of JDAI’s success.



Systems for Student Success

School & Main Institute, Inc. is partnering with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and 9 Massachusetts districts: Fall River, Framingham, Holyoke, Lowell, New Bedford, Pittsfield, Salem, Somerville and Springfield to build district and school capacity to systematically address students’ barriers to learning. This Systems for Student Success opportunity is designed to help districts identify and prioritize strategies to systematically address the barriers that impede students’ ability to fully engage in the learning process and succeed in and out of school. These barriers might include: 

  • Lack of a safe and supportive school and classroom climate;
  • Punitive, poor or unfair behavior management and disciplinary practices;
  • Ineffective family-school communication and collaboration;
  • Reactive rather than proactive, student support practices;
  • Ineffective, and potentially even detrimental practices around language and cultural competence;
  • Health and mental health challenges faced by students;
  • Adult capacity to support youth affected by trauma and/or poverty; and
  • Housing, transportation, and other challenges related to basic needs, poverty and economic instability. 

Many districts/schools are engaged in efforts to dramatically increase student achievement focus on strong instructional interventions and structures (data teams, common planning time, new assessment strategies, supplemental academic supports, etc.). While these represent critical pieces of the school improvement puzzle, they do not automatically lead to improved academic performance. For the past 5+ years School & Main Institute and the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education have been working together to find strategies and solutions that allow districts to address these challenges successfully. The Systems for Student Success grant will leverage MA Turnaround Practices and Wraparound Zone research and enable districts to assess where their most significant barriers to learning exist, identify systems and strategies to address them, and develop an action plan to effectively implement those systems and strategies.


Re-Imagining Juvenile Justice: A Positive Youth Development Mindset—A Cross Systems Approach

On November 10th, twenty students participating in the RIJJ pilot met at Wheelock College in Boston for a final session to reflect on their experience in the course and discuss the impact it has had on both personal and professional practice. Agency leadership from the MA Department of Youth Services, MA Probation, the Youth Advocacy Division and Bridge Over Troubled Waters were in attendance to learn firsthand about their staff’s experience. Students shared examples of making shifts in personal perceptions regarding the roles and responsibilities of agencies engaged in supporting  juvenile justice youth, gaining a new appreciation for the importance of working more effectively with families, exploring strategies that work with system involved youth and maybe most importantly, about the positive effect of strengthening relationships and communication between and across systems.

Each participating agency cohort detailed specific recommendations for changing policies/protocols and adapting professional practices that will foster the sharing of resources and imbed positive youth development concepts and cross-system collaboration into daily agency life.


National LEAP Convening


National and local LEAP partners came together November 1-3, 2016 in New York City, to share lessons and identify areas for practice and system improvement throughout implementation and evaluation. Partners visited two implementation sites: The Door for those implementing Back on Track and CASES for those implementing Jobs for America’s Graduates. The social-emotional dimensions of how we work and how we support young people often make the difference. In addition to changing young people’s lives, LEAP aims to make fundamental, lasting changes in how our organizations and systems work. This session looked at examples of successful efforts to change systems and policies, and then identify changes you want to target and strategies for doing so.

LEAP implementation is increasing opportunities for 3,000–5,000 youth over the next five years. LEAP offers a unique opportunity to identify effective strategies for enabling youth and young adults involved in systems to make a successful transition to adulthood, equipped with the education and skills they need to not only get a job but to build lifelong careers.

Early Lessons 

  • Young people need strong, caring relationships with adults and networks.
  • To meet youth where they are, we need multiple pathways to education and employment success.
  • Youth engagement is critical.
  • Connections with employers increase access to jobs and labor market networks.
  • We need supportive public systems and policies to achieve impact and scale.
  • There needs to be greater emphasis on racial/ethnic equity and inclusion. 

The partnerships received coaching and technical assistance on designing and implementing their local program. In addition to conducting a national evaluation throughout the initiative, we brought them together to learn from one another and further strengthen system and policy work in the field. 


Re-Imagining Juvenile Justice Pilot Program Kick-Off

A Positive Youth Development Mindset 

A Cross-Systems Approach with School & Main Institute, Inc. and Wheelock College

On June 16th, 2016 we will kick-off the Adult & Professional Certificate Program sponsored through Wheelock College Juvenile Justice and Youth Advocacy Department. A panel of experts will provide an overview of course modules, learning goals, competencies to be achieved, field experience, student assessment and hybrid on-line learning models. Participants will collaborate with professionals from all walks of the MA juvenile justice system and work and learn from nationally recognized experts and innovators in the field. The sessions will introduce participants to recognized positive youth development theory and evidence-based practices for youth involved in the juvenile justice system, with a balance of accountability and public safety.

All sessions and seminars will be held on the Wheelock College Boston and Brookline Campus and will be taught by faculty who are specialists in each area and field of study. School and Main Institute and Wheelock College’s Department of Juvenile Justice and Youth Advocacy will serve as the primary liaison and facilitators.

In a Nutshell

Founded in 1985 at Brandeis University’s Heller School of Social Policy and Management, School & Main Institute (SMI) has grown into a nationally recognized, independent non-profit training and partnership development organization that has worked with organizations and state agencies in more than 35 states.


School & Main Institute staff and faculty have years of expertise as organizational leaders, program developers, trainers, and facilitators in the fields of education, workforce preparation, youth and community development.

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