By Karen Barbee

Restorative Justice Coordinator

What do you do when life gives you lemons?

As the YouthZone Restorative Justice Coordinator, I found myself with a huge pile of lemons when COVID 19 stay at home orders restricted our ability to conduct in-person conference circles essential for restorative justice (RJ). We had 21 youth waiting to take part in these interactive conferences. If we couldn’t do it face to face, I needed to devise a virtual circle as quickly as possible.

My first action was to reach out to the amazing group of volunteers who are part of YouthZone’s RJ program to let them know I needed help. Within a week, seven volunteers helped me devise a way to offer RJ through the internet. We learned to navigate Zoom and created electronic versions of the paperwork. They gave, and continue to give, hours of their time.

In the past two days, we have hosted restorative justice conferences for five young people and we have scheduled the other conferences to be completed by the end of April. The deep care and belief these volunteers have for these youth shines through the screen, making the essence of RJ come alive. By supporting the youth who have made a mistake, these volunteers help them to grow and learn, support healing for those who have been hurt, and the repairing of relationships with-in the family and community members. The experience is powerful!

I want to send a heartfelt thank you to: Tish Filiss, Russ Criswell, Roy Davidson, Judie Banchard, Linda English, Joyce Jenkins and Emily Abderle. It is abundantly clear that without them, I would still be left with a bunch of lemons instead of lemonade.

Karen Barbee  is the Restorative Justice Coordinator for the RJ program at Youth Zone.  She taught for more than 20 years in the RE-1 School District and offers mediation and nonviolent communication through her business.