Award-winning Literacy and Youth Justice project in Calgary
Information provided by Calgary Learning Centre.
In May, the Calgary Learning Centre was proud to receive the 2005 annual Grant Spiro Memorial Award from the Calgary Youth Justice Society, for their outstanding contribution towards youth justice initiatives. They shared the honour with Pat Ramsay, a volunteer with the Calgary Youth Justice Society, who sparked the idea of a partnership.
The Calgary Learning Centre (CLC), is a not-for-profit agency, that offers extensive programs and clinical services in the areas of literacy, learning disabilities, and Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD). The CLC's mandate is to build the capacity of communities, organizations, professionals, families, and individuals to meet the complex needs associated with learning difficulties. This is done through applied research, sharing knowledge and expertise, innovative resource and program development, and clinical services.
The Centre partnered with the Calgary Youth Justice Society to develop a strategy that would recognize and address youth in conflict with the law who have low literacy skills.
Research indicates that there is a strong link between low literacy skills and/or learning disabilities and the level of involvement of youth with the juvenile justice system. The presence of a learning disability most likely involves literacy concerns as well as other characteristics that increase the likelihood of delinquency. This is borne out in the adult criminal justice system where low literacy skills, and learning disabilities in particular, are disproportionately higher in adult prison populations compared to the general population. It is estimated that 80% of inmates have learning disabilities
Working with community and Youth Justice Committee volunteers, the Calgary Learning Centre conducted a needs assessment, surveyed local agencies, conducted focus groups to review communications materials and compiled a listing of local resources. They offered several well- received information sessions to volunteers and professionals involved with youth at risk.
It is clear that the Youth Justice Committees have great potential to assist youth and their families to access supports and interventions to address low literacy skills. Already the Centre has received referrals of several youths with suspected literacy issues. Because of the Centre's expertise, they are able to provide clients with screening and assessment by trained professionals.
Not only has awareness in Calgary increased as a result of this initial project, but there has also been interest from professionals across the country and beyond who are watching the project's success with interest.
The project gratefully acknowledges the funding provided by Human Resources and Skills Development Canada and the Alberta Community Initiatives Program.
You'll find a copy of the Executive Summary online at www.calgarylearningcentre.com (click on Programs, then click Justice) or you can request a full copy of the report by contacting Mary Cole at tel: 1-877-686-9300 or 403-686-9300.
Also check... the many useful resources in Developing Successful Strategies for At-Risk Youth by the Nunavut Literacy Council, available online at: www.nunavutliteracy.ca.
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