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ST. CHARLES – State Senator Rachel Ventura has two young adults serving as interns through a program she started in partnership with the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice at the Illinois Youth Center - St. Charles Facility.

Ventura’s internship uniquely serves as the only DJJ internship with a state legislator – in addition to her internship through the Stateville Correctional Center. Due to privacy concerns, names have been taken out of the quotes.

One of the interns – who goes by D.W. – wrote the following release as part of his internship to commemorate the grand opening of the PEACE Center, which the internship is ran through:

Recently, the Illinois Youth Center in St. Charles transitioned to form the PEACE Center – Phoenix Emerging Adult Career and Education. The PEACE center is a great place for young adults to grow and learn more about working as a team and all type of skills that may help someone change their mind in how they are thinking.

The administration seeing over the PEACE Center program let the young adults participating pick out their own program, workdays and school days that they are available so that they can have a sense of independence. The staff have remained engaged with the youth and ensure that their needs are being met on a regular basis, which helps the young adults participating in the program feel reassured about their participation despite the unfamiliarity of it.

“Picking my own schedule gives me a sense of control versus being told what to do,” said one young adult participating through the PEACE Center.

Those that are a part of the program can better themselves so that when they leave the Peace Center, they can have something to do in the future. It also helps them transition more smoothly back into the community as they can use what they have learned to keep them on track.

“I am one of the young adults working on programming here at the PEACE Center. One of the things I have been focused on is trying to get my Personal Trainer certificate so that when I am done with the program, I can have that in my background,” said D.W. “This program is being offered exclusively at the PEACE Center through NIU. I know it’s a lot of work that I must put in to know more about the body and to find out how every muscle works and what they can do. Another program I am involved in is an internship with Senator Ventura from Joliet.”

These above mentioned programs are just a few that are offered. Additionally, there is: Simlog (a Forklift Simulator Program), Youthbuild (Construction Program), Financial Literary Class, Life skills, Peace Circles, Virtual Reality Classes, Nova Driving School, College Classes through Northwestern, and Elgin College and plenty more to come. The staff at St. Charles has commented on already seeing the benefits of this program for the facility.

“This feels like a different space now to work in. A lot calmer than months ago. The youth are actually staying busy and engaging in more things to occupy their time,” said one JJS Staff member at the PEACE Center.

“I’m happy that we finally have a program like this. I have been here for years and never imagined our numbers would get this low and we would be able to do something of this nature with this space. It’s a good thing for the youth here,” said another JJS Staff member at the PEACE Center.

“I’ve been running programs here for a few years and it feels good to just focus on an older population and be able to give them the skills necessary to survive and do well once they are released. We haven’t really had that in abundance here and I’m glad to be a part of the change,” said the LTA Supervisor at the PEACE Center.

Overall, this is going to be a great place for young adults in the juvenile system to be housed in. Being in this space will give them more opportunities than they ever saw possible. People have already been benefiting in many ways, and there is more to come.