Intervention Specialist, Pathways/Caught in the Crossfire
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The work Intervention Specialist Antwon Jones does at Youth ALIVE! can be pretty labor intensive. Many of the teens he works with — just out of juvenile hall or at risk for academic failure — require consistent, abundant attention to get back to school, to get off probation, to find a path to safety and permanent freedom from the justice system. They need someone to focus on them, someone who is going to follow through and follow up: Did you fill out that job application? Are you at school today? How are you getting to that court hearing? Antwon often picks them up and delivers them where they need to be. Sometimes he drops in at school unexpected. The labor pays off: one of his first successes was with a client who improved his GPA from 0.2 to 3.0.
Antwon took a winding path to Oakland and Youth ALIVE!. Born in San Francisco, he’s lived in New Jersey, Indiana, both Carolinas and Georgia. Along the way, it seems like he picked up some useful or interesting skill wherever he lived: he cuts hair, raps, plays the violin and can install bowling alleys. It was in Oakland cutting hair that he met Youth ALIVE!’s lead violence interrupter Glen Upshaw, who mentored Antwon through a time of uncertainty. Antwon started hanging around YA!, volunteering in the office. When a Pathways job came open, he was the perfect candidate.
To help his clients create a new path, he first works to build strong relationships. He says evenings and weekends are good for lunch or a movie, and time to get to know each other. “At first they’re like, ‘Why are you asking me that?’” says Antwon, even for the most basic questions. But, with time, they see all that he is willing to do to help them succeed. They see that he brings no judgement, but only positive support as they map a path ahead. “I say, ‘I’m gonna support you no matter what you do, only please behave in school.’”
Antwon says he loves the feeling of family among Youth ALIVE!’s staff. Like so many who come to work here, what inspires him most on the job is giving back, giving young people the kind of support that wasn’t there for him when he was younger. It’s a lot of work, but it changes lives.