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Last Friday, we had the pleasure of welcoming our fifth cohort of California Justice Leaders (CJL) at our annual service year kickoff event, the CJL AmeriCorps Pledge Day. CJL participants gathered — with the support of our team, site partners, community leaders, and alumni — and committed to serving their communities for one year.

Our members don’t take this commitment lightly. They know that their service as credible messengers creates ripple effects, touching the lives of young people who face the same challenges they once did in their reentry journey, making it possible for those same young people to pay it forward in their communities and alongside their peers.

My team and I are fortunate enough to have a front-row seat to the transformation that the service year brings, and Pledge Day is our opportunity to create the most hopeful, inspiring, and energizing springboard possible for the year ahead. Somehow, each Pledge Day is more inspiring than the last, and this year was no exception.

There was CJL alumni speaker, Arnold Baek, who encouraged this year’s cohort to “get uncomfortable” … ”because that unfamiliar feeling will help you grow as an individual.”

There was Bishop Charley Hames, Jr. who reminded participants that “you’re not just a part of a program, but you’re architects of transformation.”

There was Quan Huynh, Executive Director of Defy Ventures, who shared that “it’s about instilling in men and women that they have value, that their journeys have value.”

And there were many other moments of inspiration from our program alumni, my colleagues, partners, and community leaders.

This is California Justice Leaders — it’s inspired service that is evidenced in our impact.

Since 2020, our participants have supported over 300 young people in their reentry journeys and facilitated nearly 20 honorable discharges. California Justice Leaders is increasing the capacity of 30 community-based organizations in 10 counties across the state. And thus far, over 150 participants have graduated from the program and continued on to conquer personal and professional goals in their own reentry journeys. These individuals now make up our thriving and active CJL alumni network. 

As our fifth cohort embarks on the journey ahead, I hope you will follow along.

In fact, if you couldn’t make it to Pledge Day this year, you can still offer words of encouragement to this year’s cohort. Share some inspiration to help our participants kick off their service year knowing that we’re all rooting for them.

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