THE LEADER IN ADVANCING BEST PRACTICES
IN DIVERSITY, EQUITY, AND INCLUSION

Certificate Program Empowers Professionals to Drive Change in Juvenile Justice System

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Professionals working with youth who are in, or at risk of becoming involved in, the juvenile justice system have the opportunity to hone their skills and learn best practices that can lead to equitable change through the new Juvenile Justice Certificate Program at the University of Nebraska Omaha (UNO).

The program, which launched in August 2022, graduated its first cohort of five professionals in May at the Nebraska Juvenile Justice Association Conference following final projects presented by the participants. 

Project topics showcased the cohort’s ability to think critically and propose innovative solutions, such as a new gang intervention program model, adolescent development training for policymakers, and measuring restorative justice attitudes in a probation district. 

Of the five graduates, three work in a community organization focused on helping youth, one works as a juvenile probation supervisor, and another is the communications director for a Nebraska state senator.

“Along with the leadership of this program, I feel we are more equipped to inspire change at every level in the communities we serve.”

Matt Allen

Operated as a partnership between UNO’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice and its College of Public Affairs and Community Service’s Juvenile Justice Institute, the curriculum was structured around monthly themes critical to juvenile justice work. Over an eight-month period, participants met regularly with local and national speakers who discussed such topics as educational rights, equity and inclusion, policy and reform, youth engagement, and the education-to-prison pipeline.

The Juvenile Justice Certificate Program, run by the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice and the Juvenile Justice Institute, graduated its first cohort (shown with their professors) in May.
The Juvenile Justice Certificate Program, run by the University of Nebraska at Omaha’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice and the Juvenile Justice Institute, graduated its first cohort (shown with their professors) in May.

“My experience this year with the UNO certificate program was extremely valuable,” says Matt Allen, a program graduate and executive director of Community Based Services, an Omaha company that helps prevent youth from entering the criminal justice system. “From the relationships developed, content learned, along with the leadership of this program, I feel we are more equipped to inspire change at every level in the communities we serve.”

The cohort had the opportunity to engage with youth trainers and coaches who shared their own lived experiences in the juvenile justice system and offered firsthand understanding of the challenges and opportunities it presents.

The ultimate goal of the program is to provide evidence-based best practices to juvenile justice professionals in the state who can then form a resource network to support equitable change within the system. The program also serves professionals in a variety of fields who interact with or influence youth, including those who work in education, social work, and child welfare.

This article was published in our July/August 2023 issue.