Senior Profile: Sarah Lopez Plans to Help Teens Involved in the Court System

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Sarah Lopez, a member of Wheelock College’s Class of 2016, says she is determined to make a positive change in the lives of young people who are involved in the court system. Lopez, who majored in Juvenile Justice & Youth Advocacy, says her short-term goal after graduation is to work as a probation officer, but her dream is to work her way up to Commissioner of Probation.

Lopez says Wheelock taught her to focus on teens’ behavior and the reasons behind it, then to steer youths toward the appropriate resources that can help turn their lives around. “You need to focus on building that trust relationship so they don’t come back into [the court system],” she said. “Let’s get rid of the school-to-prison pipeline.”

JJYA & Teens in the Court System

Millions of youth come in contact with the U.S. legal system each year, and hundreds of thousands will be placed in locked settings. The juvenile justice system has a mandate that stresses both rehabilitation and punishment. Unfortunately, our system often relies on punishment and fails to rehabilitate. In our program, we strive to imagine and create more effective prevention and response strategies for youth at risk. Our dual goal is to support youth and families, and ensure the safety of our communities. Students learn about the juvenile justice system and how to work with youth and families inside and outside of the court system. Students’ preparation will be firmly grounded in an understanding of adolescent development.

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