Jabari: Reaching His Full Potential

Posted September 19, 2017
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
Blog jbarireaching 2017

Jabari, age 22, is pas­sion­ate about animals.

Grow­ing up, my dream was to be a vet,” he recalls. As I got old­er, life hap­pened. There were tri­als and tribu­la­tions, and I got off track from that dream.

The derail­ment occurred in New York City, while Jabari was in high school. He reg­u­lar­ly skipped out on class — and on meet­ings with his pro­ba­tion offi­cer. The miss­es added up, and he fell short of grad­u­at­ing from high school.

Jabari isn’t alone: 15% of young peo­ple in New York City are not col­lege grad­u­ates and they’re also not work­ing or enrolled in school, accord­ing to the lat­est KIDS COUNT data.

Today, though, Jabari’s life has tak­en a turn for the bet­ter. The about-face began when he was referred to a pro­gram called Jobs for America’s Grad­u­ates, or JAG, offered through the Cen­ter for Alter­na­tive Sen­tenc­ing and Employ­ment Ser­vices (CAS­ES).

JAG employs an evi­dence-based mod­el that helps young peo­ple who are home­less or involved in the child wel­fare or juve­nile jus­tice sys­tems — indi­vid­u­als like Jabari — suc­ceed at school and work. Today, the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion has 10 Learn and Earn to Achieve Poten­tial (LEAP)™ part­ners that are adapt­ing JAG or a sec­ond, sim­i­lar mod­el, called Jobs for the Future’s Back on Track. Regard­less of which mod­el is at work, the end goal is the same: Help young peo­ple earn a high school or equiv­a­lent diplo­ma and then pur­sue employ­ment or addi­tion­al education.

Jabari’s jour­ney to rebuild his future hasn’t been effort­less — or error free. Ini­tial­ly, he strug­gled to stick to a sched­ule and make it to class or LEAP activ­i­ties on time. With sup­port from his JAG spe­cial­ist, Aleks Filkos­ki, Jabari’s punc­tu­al­i­ty, atten­dance and engage­ment even­tu­al­ly improved — and so did his con­fi­dence and test scores.

Jabari wants suc­cess for him­self, and the JAG mod­el is reaf­firm­ing what we already know — that a long-term con­nec­tion with a par­tic­i­pant leads to the best out­comes,” says Filkos­ki. He espe­cial­ly loves to share good news with me, and I am hap­py to hear both the ups and downs of his journey.”

For­tu­nate­ly for Filkos­ki and Jabari, there’s much good news to share. Through the pro­gram, and with sup­port from the staff at CAS­ES, Jabari earned his high school equiv­a­len­cy diplo­ma. He also joined the JAG Brook­lyn Pro­fes­sion­al Asso­ci­a­tion and com­plet­ed a 10-week intern­ship at a local dog spa, which both bol­stered his resume and put his pas­sion for ani­mals to work. That intern­ship led Jabari to where he is today: Work­ing a full-time job at a near­by dog walk­ing and board­ing business.

This pro­gram is chang­ing things for me now, and I’m just grate­ful for the sup­port,” says Jabari, who was grant­ed an ear­ly release from pro­ba­tion super­vi­sion based on his successes.

These new expe­ri­ences and oppor­tu­ni­ties have pro­pelled Jabari to dream about his future again. I want to open my own board­ing busi­ness that cares about the well-being of all pets,” he says. I also want to even­tu­al­ly open a no-kill shelter.”

The lat­ter aspi­ra­tion — to give ani­mals a new lease on life — seems right up Jabari’s alley. After all: He loves ani­mals, and he now under­stands, up close and per­son­al, the remark­able dif­fer­ence that a sec­ond chance can make.

Learn more about LEAP

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