What is the Emerging Leaders Committee (ELC)?

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By The 2018 Emerging Leaders Committee

The Coalition for Juvenile Justice’s Emerging Leaders Committee is a partnership between Coalition for Juvenile Justice and emerging leaders in the field of juvenile justice, many of whom bring lived expertise to their work. This committee helps shape CJJ’s work, while further developing the leadership, advocacy skills, and professional interests of the emerging leaders.

The Emerging Leaders Committee (ELC) is a key part of CJJ’s work. This year, ten dynamic youth leaders from nine states were appointed to serve on the committee, and ensure youth perspectives are integrated into every aspect of CJJ’s work, from promoting youth engagement to shaping recommendations to federal and state policymakers. ELC members are between the ages of 16 and 24. Some have personal experience with the juvenile justice system while some joined because they are inspired by the stories of fellow youth and simply want to help. All are passionate advocates dedicated to seeing the juvenile justice system become truly just for all individuals who come into contact with it.  

“I joined the ELC to give back to my community: I am not just representing someone who has experienced mental health and been through the juvenile justice, foster care, and immigration systems, but also my culture and my background, and most importantly at my age. It is really rare to see a women in a position of leadership. It is even rarer to see a Hispanic/Latina young women in that position.” Emerging Leaders Committee Chair Michelle Diaz reflects.

Youth collaboration has long been a critical component of juvenile justice reform. Since its enactment in 1974, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act has required that young people serve on their Governor appointed advisory committees and have a say in shaping juvenile justice policy in their states. Youth voice is so vital that the Act requires one-third of the committees’ members to be appointed before the age of 24. Youth perspective is critical to the work of CJJ and State Advisory Groups (SAGs) throughout the country: Youth offer unique insight, and can often best speak to the needs within our juvenile justice system, and which programs, initiatives, and practices will adequately serve them.

The ELC meets for monthly conference calls and actively seeks to facilitate greater youth involvement in CJJ projects. They advise CJJ leadership and board members on youth issues, and work to galvanize State Advisory Groups (SAGs) to ensure youth members play a crucial role in developing the states’ juvenile justice plans. The Emerging Leaders Committee is also responsible for organizing the Youth Summit, an annual virtual and in-person gathering that allows young people to come together remotely -- regardless of location or incarceration status -- to explore how they can collaborate and lead in juvenile justice reform. ELC members also promote and implement the annual CJJ Spirit of Youth Award, which honors an individual who has overcome significant life challenges and become an advocate for system improvement.

The committee is not just a short term engagement or a one year opportunity. Emerging Leaders have gone on to serve in additional capacities within CJJ, including a current Regional Representative position, and leadership roles in juvenile justice advocacy organizations across the country. This committee has been a longstanding and crucial part of CJJ’s commitment to build the next generation of leaders in our field and to recognize that many of those leaders are better because of the experiences they encountered as youth.