The CJJ gives its awards to inspiring individuals who honor its core mission to improve the lives of children, families and communities nationwide. They will be presented this week in Washington, DC, at its annual conference.
This year’s Spirit of Youth Award goes to Amanda Clifford of California. It’s given to celebrate young adults under 28 who have made significant contributions to society after involvement with the juvenile justice system.
She came into contact with the juvenile justice system at 17, when she spent two months in Santa Clara’s juvenile hall before being transferred to the adult system and serving two years in the maximum-security wing. After being released, she went to college, where she started an Administration of Justice Club on campus and graduated with honors.
In 2017, Clifford began working at the Bill Wilson Center, a nonprofit that specializes in homelessness. Here she serves on several committees, offering her personal experiences in order to shape federal, state and local policies for youth. Within her first year, Clifford was recognized by the CEO for her outstanding accomplishments advocating for youth in Washington, D.C., and was also recognized as one of 2017’s Phenomenal Women by a local nonprofit, Building Peaceful Families.
CJJ’s 2018 Tony Gobar Outstanding National Juvenile Justice Specialist Award goes to Jennifer Withrow of Kentucky. This award is for someone who has served as a state juvenile justice specialist within the last five years and exemplifies excellence in service to others, is dedicated to improving the juvenile justice system and demonstrates compassion and concern.
Withrow has worked in Kentucky’s Department of Juvenile Justice for the past three years serving as the juvenile justice specialist and was recently promoted to the agency’s branch manager of federal grant programs. Here, she also serves as a subject matter expert reviewer for the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet.
In 2016 she was named Social Work Practitioner of the Year by Spalding University. She serves on several boards and advisory councils, including Lexington, Ky.’s Anti-Human Trafficking Taskforce, Asbury University’s Social Work Advisory Board, Project SAFE (Safety and Accessibility for Everyone) Executive Board, Kentucky Partnership for Families and Children’s board and on the Kentucky Trauma Informed Care Statewide Task Force.
Withrow is currently collaborating with multiple state organizations and national experts to develop and promote innovative practices within the juvenile justice system.
The A.L. Carlisle Child Advocacy Award for 2018 is awarded to Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa. This award is given to someone who makes outstanding contributions to youth, the improvement of juvenile justice and in the broader area of juvenile justice and delinquency prevention.
Grassley has served as senator since 1981. He has recently helped lead the effort to reauthorize and update the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA) for the last three Congresses. He believes a reauthorized JJDPA ensures that states are better able to remain in compliance and provide at-risk youth with the best opportunity to live productive and flourishing lives.
The NJJN will present its awards in mid-July in Durham, NC, at its annual forum. Its 2018 Youth Justice Emerging Leader Award will go to Valerie Slater. This award is given to passionate, bold youth justice advocates who are committed to motivating system-involved youth and people of color to use their voices and experiences to ensure that those most directly affected by the system are at the forefront of the youth justice movement.
Slater is the juvenile justice attorney and coordinator for the RISE for Youth Coalition at Legal Aid’s JustChildren Program. She focuses on educating communities and policymakers on the detrimental effects of youth incarceration, advancing efforts to create community-based rehabilitative models as alternatives to incarceration, advocating for the rights of incarcerated youth and closing youth prisons.
She recently led a campaign that successfully opposed building a new youth prison in Chesapeake, Va. Liz Ryan, executive director of Youth First, credits Slater for pushing Virginia advocates beyond transactional interactions and story-gathering to more meaningful, familylike relationships where youth feel cared for and empowered to advocate for themselves.
On July 17, the NJJN will present the Beth Arnovits Gutsy Advocate for Youth Award, to its seventh recipient, LaShunda Hill. This award is given to an individual who advocates for youth justice and juvenile justice reform and exemplifies “the tenacity, vision, fearlessness and wisdom of Beth Arnovits.”
Hill has been a partner of the NJJN for many years. She uses knowledge about the criminal and juvenile justice systems and the levers for change to find new ways to improve outcomes for youth, whether through legislative advocacy, working with system stakeholders or creating the vision of programs that are accountable to the youth they are serving.