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Uppers, Downers & All Points in Between





Keeping youth out of Juvie
Author: Maria Orozco





The ACLU’S Howard A. Friedman First Amendment 
Education Project, in which students from all over 
northern California take part in a trip that explores 
the various civil liberties issues that pertain to 
youth including the death penalty, homosexuality, and 
racial injustice, have recently visited the Barrios 
Unidos prevention office in Santa Cruz.

This year their focus was the consequences of 
juvenile justice. Last August a group of students 
arrived at the Santa Cruz Barrios Unidos office. 
Shocked by the artwork portrayed on the walls as they 
walked in, they were eager to learn what Barrios 
Unidos stood for. They learned that Barrios Unidos is 
a multi-cultural, nonprofit organization with a 
mission to prevent and curtail violence among youth 
by providing them with alternatives. 

Ben Alamillo, the coordinator of the juvenile justice 
outreach program, shared his work experiences as an 
employee at Barrios Unidos, as well as his excitement 
towards working with the ACLU’s education youth 
project. 

“Barrios Unidos has given me the opportunity to 
follow and incorporate my own vision into my work,” 
he said. “I’m able to influence many young leaders 
who are struggling, have struggled, whether it is 
with drugs, gangs, or whatever their struggle might 
be, to make a positive change in their lives,” 
Alamillo explained. 

When I asked him how he felt about working with the 
ACLU’s youth, he said, “I felt honored to have worked 
with such strong, intelligent leaders. It felt good 
to know that there [are] young people out there 
making a difference in this world.” 

However, not only did Alamillo feel honored to work 
with youth, but he encourages them to have their 
voices heard and spread awareness about the issues 
they are facing. 

“I want youth to know that we are like a network, 
with an objective to change this world for the 
better,” Alamillo said. “Youth are our future 
leaders, and therefore I encourage them to have their 
voices heard. Speak up and make a difference.”

Lindsay Waggerman, an ACLU youth advocate, gave us 
more information on the ACLU program and how it 
began. “The ACLU Freidman Youth Project started 13 
years ago in San Francisco, when Howard A. Freidman 
donated money to begin the youth program,” she 
said. “This program opens the eyes of youth in a 
political sense. It makes them realize how the system 
really works and how many rights youth actually 
have,” Waggerman explained. 

When I asked for her opinion on Barrios Unidos and 
the services they offer, she said, “I think it’s 
vital to see how issues play in different places, 
such as drugs, violence, and racial profiling.”

The ACLU’s youth also shared their own experiences 
and the topics of what they've covered on their trip 
so far. Tynan Kelly, an 18 year old from Belmont, 
gave us a brief overview of his history with the 
ACLU's Youth Education Project.

“When I first joined I didn't know what to expect,” 
Kelly said. “My parents were members when they were 
younger and so I joined. All I knew is that I had 
tons of friends in jail. I was aware of the crime in 
my community, but I wanted to know how the system 
really worked.” 

Tynan, like many of the youth from the ACLU project, 
changed as a person as the trip went on. “This 
program has changed my view on my own life and it has 
changed me as a person,” Kelly said. “I’ve learned so 
much about juvenile justice and I plan to spread my 
awareness in different schools and places in my 
community.”

Kelly wasn’t the only one to share their personal 
experience with us. Brianda Castro, a 15 year-old 
from San Francisco, expressed how she has grown and 
what she plans to do after their trip is over. 

“I’ve personally grown a lot, Castro said. “I’ve 
learned so much about criminal justice, a subject 
which I wouldn't normally learn in school. I’ve 
learned to become an activist. Now I’m aware of the 
unfairness in which many youth are treated when they 
commit [a] crime, and I’m ready to make a change,” 
she said. 

Eveline Chang, the Director of the Friedman Education 
Project, explained the different opportunities the 
program grants to youth. “This program creates an 
opportunity for youth to add their voice and their 
knowledge to the issues we cover in every trip,” 
Chang said. “They are the ones who choose the topic 
every year, and are transformed into activists by the 
time the trip is over.” 

Eveline strongly believes that youth should have more 
of a voice on issues that have an impact on them.

For more information or to get involved:
Barrios Unidos www.barriosunidos