Almost seven years ago, Andy (not their real name) was struggling.
Andy was being bullied extensively, and it was weighing on them.
They ended up making threats towards a local school, which were taken seriously. What they did was considered a criminal offence.
But, rather than going through the criminal justice system, this young person took part in the John Howard Society’s Restorative Justice program, which receives funding from United Way British Columbia.
“The goal of the program is to explore harms caused, repair relationships, and take steps towards a more positive path forward,” says Randi Manz, Program Manager with the Nanaimo Region John Howard Society’s Restorative Justice program.
And so Andie met with school officials, together with an RCMP member, their parent, and many others, and they discussed the impact of what Andie had done, and to come to a decision on what Andy needed to do to make it right.
Ultimately, Andy did 50 hours of community service, attended counselling, donated $1,000 to the district’s vulnerable student program, and wrote an anonymous apology letter to be read by the principal to the students of the school.
Nearly five years after completing the Restorative Justice program, this is what Andy had to say:
“I am proud to be entering my third year of Criminology at Vancouver Island University. I have a stable full-time job, that I work on top of my full-time course load at school and I also volunteer in the community when possible.
“I am confident in saying, without the opportunity I received from the Restorative Justice program and the amazing staff at John Howard, I would not be in the same place I am today. I am thankful for the opportunity, and a second chance at changing my life around as a challenged youth.
“Knowing what I know now, I hope to inspire others to learn from their mistakes in life and use their own stories to empower others to make a change and a difference. I hope other youth that are in the same position I was also get the same opportunity to learn from their own mistakes, while hearing how it not only impacted them, but the people around them. While making a difference in their community.
“I am forever grateful for the second chance and opportunities that John Howard Society’s restorative justice program has provided me with.”
“It’s not every day that we get to hear from a former participant about the path they took after completing the program and all of their accomplishments they have since worked so hard for to make happen,” says Randi. “But when we do hear these stories, we are reminded of the strength in coming together as a community to address harm and how powerful offering someone a chance to change behaviour can be.”