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May 08, 2017

Youth Voices—In Their Own Words

My experience at Cordero House was one of the most significant events to have happened to me. Let me start with a background of who I am. I came from a small village in the countryside of El Salvador. At a young age, I learned to be independent, going to school and helping with the daily chores. I moved to the city for a very brief moment before flying to the U.S.

At first, I felt strange and overwhelmed with everyone and everything around me. As time went by, I found myself in a state of confusion. Alone, I had no one to turn to ask for help. Instead, I did things that to this day I regret. Such events led to me spending time in a youth corrections facility.

Many individuals were concerned about my behavior. Let’s be honest! I was a monster hiding in a young boy’s body. Although no one dared call me that, I assumed people saw me that way. Looking back, I picture it like a roller coaster going at an extremely high velocity while under fire.

Eventually, my counselor referred me to the Cordero program where the director scheduled a screening for me. She assessed me to see if I were the right candidate for the program. She made two suggestions: I could either continue in a highly structured environment of a lockup facility or enter a transitional program at Janus. I chose Janus.

The Cordero program requires each youth to go through a process represented by a seven-level color system, signifying different phases of mastering emotional development. The color progression begins with red followed by orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and purple. Each new resident starts at the red level— the initiation of a journey—where one is classified as a risk to the community and oneself. The orange phase is when one begins to start changing one's behaviors and thinking process. Each level shapes and transforms a person into someone different. Not perfect, but one who can use his cognitive skills and abilities to build a better future and become a successful member of society.

In my experience, the hardest levels were the first four. I had a selfish and eccentric behavior, very antisocial, submissive and self-loathing. I suppressed emotions: anger reigned above them all. I associated many thinking errors with my anger, holding grudges. Everyone who knew me was concerned that I would eventually lash out and hurt people. I was a ticking time bomb! Such a heavy burden finally took its toll and culminated in me falling into a state of depression.

Just picture a dying star collapsing on itself before going supernova. I felt helpless, minute. I wanted to give up and throw in the towel. I did, in fact reach a breaking point. I had a panic attack after I made a sly remark towards a staff member. Guilt and shame paid me a visit. Regret and remorse showed up too. As time continued and I moved to the next levels, I began exhibiting a side I had never felt: empathy, accountability and respect kicked open the doors into my life and established a foothold. Giving up was not an option for me anymore; it was out of the equation. It was time to face my monsters.

After the grueling gauntlet of the first levels, the highest and most remarkable experience took place. The process of clarification. In my own words, it was time to make amends and be accountable for my past actions. Such a process was no easy task. Staff scrutinized and thoroughly analyzed me. Any hints of thinking errors or lack of empathy would resurface. After going through this self- examination and internal work, I was at the state where my honesty, empathy, accountability and integrity were my most prized attributes of my character. I had undergone a transformation from a criminal to a conquering hero. Many do not get a second chance to redeem themselves. After my successful completion of the program, I have become a better man. 

By Gerardo Granados, former Cordero House resident

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Jan 18, 2018
Employee Spotlight—Washington Outreach Specialists

Every day our Outreach Specialists in Washington are busy serving homeless youth who have no one else to turn to. The team of three staff—Keeva Haverkost, Jessica Villasenor, and Jean Withers—work like a well-oiled machine, supporting each other so they can provide high quality service to youth. All of them are passionate about their work. Bettina Boles, Program Supervisor of The Perch and Yellow Brick Road Washington, says of her team, “Each person brings their unique contribution and special reason to work as an Outreach Specialist.” According to Bettina, the team has multifaceted roles— hosting The Perch—our drop-in center for youth—conducting street outreach for Yellow Brick Road, Washington and leading educational presentations that help the community better understand human trafficking and its impact in Clark County.

Jan 09, 2018
Youth Spotlight—Noah Schultz and his” Inspiring Action Tour”

Noah Schultz is a 25-year old graduate of the Hope Partnership program who served 7.5 years in the custody of the Oregon Youth Authority (OYA). While at the MacLaren Correctional Facility, Noah received two Bachelor of Arts degrees. Since his release in October 2016, he has become an outspoken youth advocate, with a passion to drive reform in our justice system, inspiring hope, action and humanizing the stories of the incarcerated. In November 2017, Noah completed a two-month “Inspiring Action Tour” at ten correctional facilities throughout the U.S. where he showed the award-winning documentary film about him, “Perception from Prison to Purpose.” He is co-owner of Forgotten Culture Clothing and co-founder of Verbal Escape. Noah spoke to us about his tour.

Dec 18, 2017
Sixth Grader Organizes Sock Drive For Janus Youth

Eleven-year old Quentin Brown organized a winter sock drive at his school, Cascade Heights Public Charter School, collecting 582 pairs of socks for our youth. This is his second year organizing the sock drive.

 Last year, Janus awarded Quentin the “Stars for Kids Award” for his contributions to our youth. Each year on his birthday, Quentin asks family members to give him gifts that he can donate to Portland’s homeless youth. Rather than getting toys and games, Quentin gets socks, water bottles, hats and scarfs that he packs up in a bin and brings down to the Janus administrative office. Last year, he even brought a little piggy bank with all of his savings and gave it to Janus. He has been doing this for seven years now. By thinking of the needs of others, he sets an example for his peers, family and community, showing the impact kids have on helping other kids. Quentin demonstrates that acts of kindness can be cultivated at a young age. 

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