CLS Undergrad Makes a Difference in the Lives of Juvenile Offenders

by Stephanie Barnett, CLS Undergraduate Academic Advisor

CLS Undergrad Makes a Difference in the Lives of Juvenile Offenders
Yuri Reyes, B.S. Criminology, Law and Society, Spring 2013

For the Criminology, Law, and Society undergraduate program at George Mason, our slogan, Making a Difference, is more than just an advertising tool – it is a representation of our values, practices, and commitment to the field. Our faculty and students conduct cutting-edge research and apply those findings directly in the field to inform policy and practice among our peers. Making a Difference is what we do and it is what we instill in our undergraduate students through the highly successful CLS Internship Program.

Yuri Reyes recently completed an internship with Fairfax County Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court (JDRDC), East County Probation Services in May 2013. Across the Spring 2013 semester Yuri worked 24 hours per week with a field probation officer assigned to juvenile offenders in the Falls Church area. She was also given the opportunity to shadow other probation officers who presided over youth that were in residential facilities, such as Less Secure Shelter II, Boys Probation House, and Juvenile Detention Centers. Yuri’s regular duties included: monitoring juvenile offenders through office, school, and home visits to verify compliance with court ordered conditions; assessing clients’ risk and protective factors; developing service plans with input from the clients and parents to determine long and short term goals; completing social history investigations; referring clients to outside agencies or facilities; documenting and maintaining prescribed records of casework services through the statewide BADGE system; participating in trainings and workshops pertaining to probation work and motivational interviewing; and observing a variety of court hearings.

Out of all the above, Yuri identifies the most rewarding project as constructing social history reports for the juveniles she was responsible for overseeing. A social history is an investigative report that examines a child’s history in regard to legal history, family, school, community and peers, alcohol and drugs, mental health, aggression and violence, attitudes, skills and employment, and free time. She was able to construct two full social history reports which enabled her to build a positive rapport with those clients. This experience opened her eyes to the key role that counseling plays in working with juvenile offenders. Yuri says, “The best part of working with my clients was knowing that my work was making a difference in their lives.” One client in particular, a troubled teen who had struggled was able to make positive changes and left a lasting impression on Yuri’s experience with the JDRDC.

Yuri’s day-to-day experiences with the JDRDC and her research project, How do Juvenile Probation Officers in Fairfax County Manage Cases Where the Youth is Gang Affiliated?, informed her on the realities of working in this challenging field and allowed her to observe the various career tracks available in the field. “An internship is a wonderful opportunity – it shows you whether or not this is the occupation you desire, teaches you valuable workplace skills, and most importantly, it serves as a great networking tool.” That experience and networking is what Yuri attributes to her receiving and accepting a job offer upon graduation in the same field and a similar occupation.

When asked what advice she would give to CLS students considering the CLS Internship Program, she stressed the importance of the required preparation course in helping her to better construct her resume, practice interviewing skills, and conduct herself in the workplace – all key in securing the internship offer. Yuri says of her experience, “an internship is what you make of it – I wanted to learn as much as possible and make every minute count, and that is exactly what I did.” This CLS intern, as is the case with so many others, has not only made a difference in her own life, but in the lives of those she worked with.