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GIVING BACK

Rachel Abraham, 2015 recipient of the Audrey J. Harris Summer Internship Award, interned at the Dane County Juvenile Detention Center.

I am a UW-Madison graduate with a degree in Legal Studies and a Criminal Justice Certificate. Depending on where the next year or two takes me professionally, I may or may not continue my education and receive a Master’s Degree. I hope to pursue a career working personally with juveniles affected by the Criminal Justice System.

This summer I got the opportunity to work at the Dane County Juvenile Detention Center. I am so happy I got to work closely with juveniles, as it has solidified my goals to help high-risk youth. I spent the majority of my time helping juveniles with grammar and math, leading group activities, and being present for them during every hour of my shift. My courses at UW-Madison taught me a lot about the factors that lead people into crime and the system, but actually getting to work with detained juveniles was the most valuable part of my education.

The Juvenile Detention Center promotes a safe and secure environment for juveniles, while teaching them new skills that will help keep them out of trouble once released. Every week multiple organizations come in and do activities with the juveniles. Through the different people who come into Detention, they are exposed to topics such as independent living, job searching, educational enhancement, exploring hobbies, cooking, and much more. Most of these kids do not have sufficient role models in their lives, causing them to act up and get into trouble. By providing opportunities to learn and grow as people in Detention, these kids can take what they have learned and hopefully apply it to their lives once released.

I am so very grateful for this internship experience. Juveniles are the most important age group to target for change. Our actions during adolescence are good predictors of our actions later in life. The skills we pick up during these years are crucial to our personal success during adulthood. Being able to promote smarter behavior at Detention makes me believe that those in the Juvenile Justice System can avoid the Adult Justice System if they put their minds to change.

I had no idea how much I would enjoy working directly with juveniles. Not only have I learned a lot about myself throughout this experience, but also I have learned the importance of treating the kids in Detention like anyone else. I would like to thank the Dane County Juvenile Detention Center for giving me the opportunity to explore a world I desired to understand better. This internship has proved a level of patience and passion I did not realize I had for working with youth.

I would like to thank the Family of Audrey J. Harris for this gift. By awarding me the scholarship, I have been able to focus on my internship while being relieved of the financial stress that comes with this experience. This has been the most incredible opportunity, and I plan on taking the skills I have learned with me into my next endeavors.

Lastly, I would like to thank the University of Wisconsin Madison for the best four years of my life. Thank you for teaching me so much, and helping me get to where I am today.