City of New Rochelle Celebrates Graduation of First Justice Ambassadors Youth Council Cohort

The City of New Rochelle held a graduation ceremony for the Justice Ambassadors Youth Council (JAYC) on May 23rd at New Rochelle City Hall, celebrating the work done by an inaugural cohort of young adults to address community challenges and improve the lives of the City’s younger residents. 

Launched in January, the Justice Ambassadors Youth Council is a paid fellowship program designed to reduce youth involvement in the criminal legal system by bridging pathways to higher education, breaking down racial and ethnic boundaries and contributing to healthy adolescent development. The JAYC program brought together local government executives and young adults 18-25 years old from economically disadvantaged or legal system impacted backgrounds to co-develop policy proposals aimed at tackling community challenges head on and promoting justice system reform.

Over the past ten weeks, JAYC members met to discuss policies that can actively improve the lives of younger residents and build out a set of restorative justice-based policy recommendations for the City to work towards implementing. Stakeholders from the City of New Rochelle, the School District of New Rochelle, County officials, and Columbia University were among the participants. Splitting up into tactical discussion groups to create three new policy proposals, the council focused on interventions that can enhance the lives of children, teens, and young adults in New Rochelle. The groups presented their policy proposals on Criminal Justice, Mental Health, and Community Outreach & Early Engagement during the graduation ceremony. 

The Justice Youth Ambassadors Council was created in partnership with the Columbia University Center for Justice and the New Rochelle Community Justice Center (NRCJC). Jarrell Daniels, who worked with Columbia University’s Center for Justice to launch the Justice Ambassadors Youth Council in New York City, leads the JAYC initiative in New Rochelle. 

“To create a safe community and a fair justice system, it’s crucial to listen and collaborate with those directly affected by it,” said Mayor Yadira Ramos-Herbert. “The graduates of the Justice Youth Ambassadors Council have shown remarkable dedication and consideration during their eight weeks of hard work, and I eagerly anticipate seeing their efforts implemented in our city. This program represents a significant move towards justice reform within our local government.”

“The Justice Youth Ambassadors Council graduation represents a significant step forward for New Rochelle,” said Acting City Manager Wilfredo Melendez. “The success of the program showcases the city’s progress towards fostering criminal legal system reform and youth opportunity — demonstrating an ever-present commitment to driving positive change. We are proud to support our community by celebrating innovative initiatives and milestones that further justice at the foundational level.”

As the fourth program to launch as part of the NRCJC portfolio, the Justice Ambassadors Youth Council is a testament to New Rochelle’s commitment to fostering positive change citywide. By providing necessary resources and an ecosystem of support, the city is working to build a community that embraces restorative justice principles, empowers youth, and cultivates a future where every individual can contribute meaningfully to society. 

“It’s been a privilege working with and learning from a diverse group of New Rochelle community leaders,” said Jarrell E. Daniels, Program Director of Justice Ambassadors Youth Council.  “Both youth and adult stakeholders have embarked on a journey to address the complex challenges facing New Rochelle residents by shaping tomorrow’s policies. Congratulations, graduates! Your voices are the blueprint for a brighter future.”

“It was my honor to serve as a mentor to this inaugural cohort of Youth Justice Ambassadors,” said New Rochelle District 3 Council Member David Peters. “Their eagerness and commitment are powerful catalysts for change, and the policies they have proposed are an excellent start for the future of their peers and our community.”

Of the 10 young participants in this first cohort, five are graduates of Judge Jared R. Rice’s Opportunity Youth Part (OYP) initiative. The Center for Justice Innovation and the New Rochelle City Court launched OYP in October of 2020 with the goal of connecting justice-involved Emerging Adults, ages 18-24, to local organizations that provide workforce training, jobs, Mentors, GED classes, college access, and assistance with mental health and substance use challenges. OYP also aims to secure more compassionate legal outcomes for these Emerging Adults: 90% of the participants who complete OYP exit the program without a legal record.   

“I am extraordinarily grateful for the work done by the participants – both our youth and the adult government stakeholders – on the Justice Ambassadors Youth Council,” notes Judge Jared R. Rice. Five of the 10 JAYC graduates completed the Opportunity Youth Part program that Judge Rice launched in October 2020 in New Rochelle City Court. “Our vision for New Rochelle is to be a community where we can provide equitable resources and opportunities for everyone,” adds Judge Rice. “These policy discussions brought us that much closer to that reality.” 

A playback link to the event can be found at