SF Young Adult Court graduation ceremony

Young-Adult-Court-graduate-042621, SF Young Adult Court graduation ceremony, News & Views
A Young Adult Court graduate from the April 2021 ceremony reads a statement to the room. – Photo: Felton Institute

by Daphne Young

This past holiday was especially joyous for six young adults who’ve been caught up in the California court system. On Dec. 16, 2021, the San Francisco Young Adult Court held its annual graduation and recognized some young people who’ve overcome obstacles such as homelessness, residential treatment and often being victims of violence themselves.

Superior Court Judge Bruce Chan presided over the Young Adult Court (YAC) and has taken part in the event since its inception, back in 2015. “Young Adult Court graduation is the most joyful part of my judicial career,” said Judge Chan. “It is a privilege and honor to help guide young people away from the justice system into a promising future.”

In YAC, young adults ages 18-24 who have been arrested and are eligible, come to the court at least once a week for up to a year-and-a-half to take part in educational and therapeutic sessions. They also meet with case managers and once they complete the program, their potential felony convictions are erased to avoid derailing employment and future opportunities. 

The latest data from Young Adult Court shows 73 percent of the graduates have avoided being re-arrested in San Francisco County.

“We make mistakes,” said one graduate, whose identity, for safety concerns, is anonymous. “But, how badly do you want to get this mistake off of your record?” 

Another graduate said, “You need to change your way of thinking and your patterns.” He added, “You might not want to listen at first, but if you think about the long term, you can complete it.”

Each year, more than 60 participants are referred by the Public Defender’s Office, adult probation, private counsel and the District Attorney’s office. And, the latest data from Young Adult Court shows 73 percent of the graduates have avoided being re-arrested in San Francisco County.

Young-Adult-Court-graduation-Judge-Bruce-Chan-Ranon-Ross-Shamann-Walton-121621, SF Young Adult Court graduation ceremony, News & Views
Every year, around 60 young adults aged 18-24 are referred by the Public Defender’s Office to the Young Adult Court program, which helps our kids get vocational training, therapy and education. Here, The honorable Judge Bruce Chan, Ranon Ross from the DA’s Office and Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton attend the Young Adult Court graduation on Dec. 16, 2021.

“I am proud of the young people graduating today,” said Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton. “As someone who was in and out of juvenile hall in my teenage years, I understand the challenges that our cohort of graduates faced and recognize the need for exposure to different opportunities and mentors to pursue a better future.”

Some words of advice were also shared by yet another graduate at the event: “To the incoming participants: Be consistent, be honest and open, be willing to accept help from others and be willing to work with others.” 

Advocates of the program say through YAC San Francisco is demonstrating a commitment to altering the composition of its in-custody population where transitional aged youth are overrepresented. Their goal is to help change the life trajectory of young adults with serious crimes and barriers.

For more information about the Young Adult Court program contact the Superior Court of California, in the County of San Francisco, or visit: www.sfsuperiorcourt.org.

Daphne Young is the Education Reporter at the San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper. The Chicago native is an award-winning journalist who’s covered news for radio and TV stations around the country. She attended San Francisco State University and is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. If you have an education story that you’d like to see the Bay View cover, please contact Daphne by email: education@sfbayview.com.