Each year the Liberty Hill Foundation names five local “Leaders to Watch,” the idea being that these are five exceptional people who are fighting for social justice from the grassroots up, and are on the verge of doing still more.
Liberty Hill has just named this year’s Five to Watch” whom you can find here.
We were particularly happy to note the selection of Kruti Parekh, the Program Coordinator Youth Justice Coalition as one of the five.
The idea behind the Youth Justice Coalition (YJC) is to train young people who have been affected by the criminal justice system, to organize to change unjust and ineffective laws, practices and systems that have an impact on them or their families.
With this in mind, in 2007, YJC opened Free L.A. High School, a charter school in partnership with John Muir High School that helps kids who have either dropped out or been pushed out of other schools and who have, in most cases, had some kind of contact with the juvenile justice system. Kruti is the school’s program director. Now at Free LA, in addition to core academic classes like English, Algebra, and Science, students study community organizing, public policy development, the use of media and communications, and advocacy.
Through Kruti’s efforts (along with that of YJC’s executive director, Kim McGill) YJCs young people have learned to effectively protest, lobby, hold press conferences and partner with other organizations in order to have a very real and measurable part in changing public policy. For instance, Kruti and YJC were instrumental in bringing about a new city policy that protects high school and middle school students from receiving $250 tickets for being late to school and other minor infractions, and were among the most consistant and vocal advocates for the successful passage of the Fair Sentencing for Youth act, SB9, which gives some California inmates sentenced to life without parole for crimes they committed as minors, at least a glimmer of a chance of one day being paroled.
According to Liberty Hill, Kruti’s mission is to help all LA’s kids have a better future by “prioritizing ‘youth opportunities over youth cages.”
We’re for that.