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May 18, 2018

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Master of Education

I initially became involved in this research because it spoke to me from past-lived experiences. As someone who used journaling as a cathartic tool while growing up it was not until later in life that its use as a tool and technique became more evident to me. I decided to introduce daily journaling in the English class I was teaching, which was comprised of a group of at-risk male teens. I anticipated daily journaling would be a struggle yet it was eventually embraced and valued. After discovering some of the amazing effects of this experience, I became curious about research surrounding journaling and the impact that it may have on those that some would deem to be most at-risk (those that have been incarcerated). I decided to enrol in my Master in Education at Laurier and was thrilled to receive the support of Dr. Steve Sider in this journey.

This article, "Incarceration, Relationships, and Belonging: Insights into the Experiences of Two Male Youth Recently Released from Custody Facilities," fits into my larger research interests and my thesis work, as it highlights my passion for giving a voice to those that feel they have been silenced. It also examines ways that various professionals can assist our students in feeling a positive sense of self and a sense of belonging to a community within their schools. When students feel like they belong to their school community they are much more likely to attend, succeed, and graduate.

I think that the most surprising moment of this research was when one of the youth requested to continue journaling beyond the expected sessions that we discussed. He was so impacted by the work that he was even willing to assist me with speaking to other professionals that work with at-risk teens as a way to teach and offer advice about how to build relationships with teens that are in similar situations as he was in. I have also been surprised by the response from professionals since this article has been published. It is clear from those that have contacted me that there is a need and interest in learning about ways to support this demographic, along with professionals working with this demographic.

As a new vice principal in the Upper Grand District School Board, my next steps include putting together learning opportunities for teachers and administrators to explore ways that we can support this demographic. Along with this, I am working on building potential workshops to work with the professionals that support these youth, and build a program to work with the youth themselves. From this research, I hope that people will be reminded about the power in listening and offering an opportunity for those that have been silenced to speak up and use their voice. We can learn so much from people just by listening. I also hope that professionals that work with this demographic will benefit and use the evidence-based strategies that have been offered to make it easier for them to build a positive trusting relationship. Finally, I hope that people are reminded that we need challenge assumptions and set aside our judgements of one another and understand that we are all more than our pasts.

Although our at-risk youth may have made mistakes, they are more than those mistakes and may just need a positive trusting relationship in their life to support them in paving a new way.

Overall, I hope that both the youth and the professionals that work with them understand the need to take professional risks and try innovative strategies. This will help these young men to find productive ways improve upon their self-esteem and sense of belonging – one of those ways can be through writing opportunities such as those that I provided to the young men that I worked with.

I hope to have an impact on the youth that want to have their voices heard. I also hope that I can affect the professionals working alongside them when it comes to providing strategies for building these relationships that will allow at-risk youth to increase their positive sense of self and belonging. When the youths’ sense of self is strong, professionals will typically witness these males acting in less destructive ways.

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