There are many rewarding things that come from being such a long-running organization. One of the luckiest things we get to see is the impact it has had on volunteers into their adulthood. Aaron Fennell, now 27, began volunteering for Youth Court when he was even younger than most of our respondents. He was not aware of this at the time, but looking back he sees the connections between his involvement with restorative justice and his career now.
Fennell was just twelve years old when he was first introduced to Youth Court. Despite our volunteers being largely high school age at the time, he still found it to be a welcoming environment he wanted to be a part of. “I enjoyed being around older kids in an environment that was both serious and fun. The older guys quickly took me under their wing and I got very involved for a couple of years.” He attended regularly for years, rarely missing a case. One year Fennell even attended one of the Youth Court Summits in Southern California, where youth courts from all over the state come together to learn from one another. Fennell explains that his time in Youth Court taught him a lot that he would take into his adulthood. “Coming out of Youth Court I definitely had a larger appreciation for diversion programs and overall increased awareness of the justice system and some of the flaws it has, particularly in how it dealt with youth convicted of non-violent crimes.” As Fennell grew up and stepped away from Youth Court, his passion for helping others remained.
Serenity Knolls is an addiction treatment center in West Marin that Fennell now works at. “I work with other addicts and alcoholics and I love it and I guess Youth Court was a foreshadowing of what was to come for me; working with others who deal with a similar affliction as my own.” Youth Court, now Peer Solutions, was his introduction to helping young people who were struggling, and he eventually was able to make that into his career. He also has remained politically active, supporting causes asking for legislative change to battle inequity in the United States. “I think Black Lives Matter and the March For Our Lives are two movements really spearheading political change right now. If you look at the root of what these movements are aiming for it is based in specific laws that they want to see changed and that makes it really easy for me to get behind. There is clarity and transparency to these movements.”
Working to help others is incredibly rewarding but can also be mentally exhausting, “You’re getting involved in the business of giving back and you're dealing with people.” Fennell explains that the work can be extremely draining at times but is absolutely worth considering as a career if that is what you care about. “If you can deal with the exhaustion and the hardships of helping people through their lowest points and provide hope for them and get a sense of reward and wholeness from doing this work then it is right for you.”