In the United States, more girls are getting caught up in the juvenile justice system than ever before. What happens once they get back to their normal lives? See how an organisation called PACE is, with Wärtsilä’s aid, helping steer them towards successful careers.
In the last 20 years, the number of girls entering the juvenile justice system in the United States (US) has been on the rise. However, most of their crimes are “status offences”. This includes truancy or running away from their home – all cases that are considered criminal activities for those under 18 years of age.
However, even once they’re out of the system, it’s not easy for them to rebuild their lives. Many have to fight against ‘recidivism’ which is the tendency to repeat offences.
“When girls are limited in their access to education and treatment, or when their numbers, relative to boys, increase in the juvenile justice system, particularly for assaultive behaviour, status offences, and technical violations of probation, we are often not supporting them or providing them with the tools they need to become successful adults. We’re not offering them opportunities to learn how to become healthy, safe, and productive,” states a report by Rights4Girls, a human-rights organisation that works to end gender-based violence in the US.
This is where organisations like Florida-based PACE step in. They provide gender-responsive services that help girls in the juvenile justice system. The not-for-profit organisation aids at-risk girls by helping them with after-school activities, education, life-skills and career guidance from real-world role models.
Since 2017, Wärtsilä and PACE have been collaborating on this mission at PACE’s Broward County office.
“I was serving on the committee for PACE’s annual fundraiser called ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun Brunch!’ The proceeds from the fundraiser would help support the girls,” explains Alicia Lockhart, Agreement Sales Manager at Wärtsilä in Americas region. “So, I brought the sponsorship opportunity to our communications manager and she said, ‘This is amazing, let’s do it.’”
Alicia Lockhart, Agreement Sales Manager at Wärtsilä in Americas region.
The sponsorship gave ten women in the office tickets to attend the fundraiser and a further ten were sponsored by Wärtsilä. Subsequently, several of them have also volunteered with Partners4Pace, PACE’s volunteer program that supports counselling and training for at-risk girls.
This support, says Lockhart, is key to guiding the girls towards a more secure future.
“Some of these girls take four different city buses to get to school every day. Some of them are within the juvenile justice system and so, it is a vulnerable group here,” says Lockhart.
“I definitely think this support is important for them. Through my time working with these girls, I’ve heard some of them say – ‘Miss, I didn’t know I could be a lawyer or a doctor or an engineer. How do I get a job like yours?’ These girls don’t even know what they can do, what they are capable of. It’s important that we open their eyes and show them all the amazing opportunities they have,” she adds.
The kind of guidance that these role models and volunteers give ranges from helping girls write their resumes, to conducting team-building activities and helping them develop their presentation skills.
“Working with the Career & College Readiness Coach at PACE, we developed a skill-building workshop, where the girls came to our office and we treated them to a day of resume writing, learning how to face your fear of speaking in public, and building leadership skills,” explains Lockhart. “After this day of learning, the girls were ready to take on a mock job interview. The girls are at a prime age for their first jobs, and none of them had ever practised an interview, so this was perfect timing.”
More specifically, Wärtsilä is now planning on helping PACE Broward County focus on providing training for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers.
Girls interested in the fields of engineering, for example, could get a chance to receive a “mini-training from a coordinator,” says Lockhart.
The Wärtsilä Land & Sea Academy is one place where these students could potentially do that. The academy provides training for Wärtsilä’s customers and internal staff on the proper handling of ship and power plant equipment. It also caters to younger visitors.
“Previously, we’ve had schools come in here and even have had the ‘bring your kids to work’ day. We try to give a basic understanding of what our equipment is doing in the industry. We relate it to what they study in their science classes and what they see in their day-to-day lives,” says Robert Miller, Regional Training Manager, Wärtsilä. “It improves their understanding. When they come here, they can actually see what a specific company is doing with what they’re learning about.”
All this, says Miller, will be especially useful to the girls at PACE as the Wärtsilä Land & Sea Academy will be lending their support to the organisation and their programs for at-risk girls.