Established in 2004, Youth Link, which is managed by Jamilah Clark, MSW, began as a mandated anti-recidivism program, providing Family Court-involved youth with counseling, tutoring, and social-emotional supports to help them successfully exit the juvenile justice system and reconnect to their school, employment, families, and communities.
Over the years, it became evident that a singular focus on court-involved youth excluded many other youth who faced high-risk factors and barriers to success. Other teens who participate in sports programs at PAL routinely ask if they could “join” Youth Link - not realizing it is a mandated program for court-involved youth.
To support all youth, not just those that are currently in trouble with the law, PAL has redefined the program to encompass any at-risk youth growing up with the deck stacked against them. That includes homeless, foster, truants, probationers, youth ex-offenders, and any other youth having experienced significant childhood trauma. Using the same interventions that have been so successful with court-involved youth, PAL now operates Youth Link as a “Vulnerable Youth Program,” providing counseling and support to set youth on a course for future success.
PAL defines “Vulnerable Youth” as those who have experienced trauma or live in neighborhoods where exposure to trauma and adverse childhood experiences, such as economic hardship, violence or involvement in the foster care and juvenile justice system is prevalent. Most often, these neighborhoods, for example, the Hunts Point/Longwood neighborhood in the Bronx and the Central Harlem community in Manhattan, where PAL’s Youth Link programs are located, are both high-priority communities for the NYPD. They are characterized as having higher rates of unemployment, violence, failing schools, and juvenile arrests and incarceration than average.
PAL believes that youth come equipped with the survival skills to overcome obstacles to positive youth development—they just need support getting there.
Jamilah Clark, MSW
Associate Director of Juvenile Justice Services