Empowering Youth: The Choice Program at UMBC

The Choice Program at UMBC has been on a transformative journey for over 35 years. This episode explores their mission, approach evolution, and impact on young lives.

The Choice Program’s Mission and Vision:

Founded in 1989, the Choice Program envisions a world where children, youth, and families can thrive within their communities. They primarily support over-policed, underserved youth under Juvenile Services. Dr. Kelly Quinn, Deputy Director, and her team use an anti-racist, evidence-informed approach to help youth meet their goals, from getting a library card to fulfilling probation requirements.

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A Paradigm Shift in Approach:

The program’s history reflects a shift in approach, paralleling the societal narratives surrounding young individuals, especially those of color. During a period characterized by moral panic, the program began as a monitoring system, aiming to ensure young people’s compliance. However, this evolved into a mentoring model, recognizing the importance of human connection over constant surveillance.

UMBC Partnership and Research Integration:

What sets the Choice Program apart is its integration with UMBC and its commitment to community engagement. The program actively collaborates with UMBC researchers to refine their intervention model. Notably, they’ve incorporated the groundbreaking work of Professor Carlo DiClemente, focusing on motivational interviewing and systems of change. This partnership is a testament to the program’s dedication to evidence-based practices.

Advocacy on Multiple Fronts:

The Choice Program is not content with merely transforming individual lives. They are active advocates at the state and national levels, effecting change within the youth legal system. Dr. Quinn, active on commissions and advisory groups, works tirelessly to reform legislation and amplify young voices. They advocate for police accountability in schools and essential legal rights, making a broad impact.

Closing Thoughts:

The Choice Program’s dedication to empowering youth shines through despite systemic barriers. Focusing on individual lives and working within institutions are effecting meaningful change. Their story reminds us to see beyond the headlines, listen, and believe in the potential for positive transformation.

To learn more about the Choice Program, visit their website and follow them on Instagram and Facebook. This episode is a powerful reminder of the change that can be achieved when communities unite to uplift and support their youth.

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