Memphis Daily News
JIFF Is Making a Difference in Memphis
October 19, 2015
By Dr. Mary C. McDonald
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, French Jesuit and philosopher, said: “The future belongs to those who give the next generation reason to hope.” It is a brilliant way of capturing the solution, but how do you give hope to a generation of young people who seem mired in a downward spiral of multi-generational hopelessness? What do you hope for when your world is your ZIP code and your ZIP code is a world of violence, crime, hunger, homelessness, gangs, crack houses and unbridled anger? Who gives hope for the future when the present is so dire?
That’s the question Rick Carr asked himself when he launched JIFF, Juvenile Intervention & Faith-based Follow-up (jiffyouth.org) in 2003 to provide intervention services for juvenile delinquent youth from ages 12 to 18 who have been through Juvenile Court three or more times. JIFF is a nonprofit, faith-based program with a mission to break the destructive cycle of juvenile crime through education, technical job-skills training, mentoring, Christ-centered interventions and positively influencing families. The interventions include linking each participant with a community mentor, helping participants to develop and implement a life plan with meaningful and measureable goals and preparing them for the workplace through JIFF’s culinary arts training, career skills readiness and GED programs.
So how does it work, and does it work? It takes a strong, well-trained team to be warriors on behalf of the youth who, because of their destructive choices, wind up in the Juvenile Court system, time after time. Repeat juvenile offenders just expect to be dead or in jail by the time they’re 21. There’s no planning for the future, no delayed gratification, there is only what’s happening now, and what’s happening is destructive. According to program director Kevin Williams, “They need someone to come along side of them, lift them up, love them, mentor them and show them another way.”
That “other way” is what JIFF is all about.
“We serve more than 150 youths a year and our goal, with increased donations, is to increase that number. Ninety-nine percent of our participants come to JIFF though a Juvenile Court referral, all are under house arrest and wear ankle bracelets monitored by the Court,” said Richard Graham, executive director of JIFF, who gave up his corporate job in order to be on the front lines of service to Memphis and to the youth who need the transformational change JIFF provides.
And transformative it is. According to Jhukuruin, a graduate of JIFF, if it were not for this program he would be dead or in jail. “I was running with a gang, fighting, shot at and ended up in Juvenile Court. I had to change but didn’t know how. Then I got a chance to go to JIFF. It changed my life.”
Today, Jhukuruin is a graduate of the Memphis Police Academy and working on his Bachelor Degree in criminal justice at the University of Memphis. His is one of the many JIFF success stories, and each one is making a difference.
Contact Dr. Mary C. McDonald, a national education consultant, at 574-2956 or visit mcd-partners.com