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Clockwise from top left: Jay Castro, Anastasia Gaisenok, Ravi Patel, and Zofia Switkowski.   

Introducing the Youth Justice Lab 

We are so excited for the first cohort of the Youth Justice Lab!

From July 23rd to August 29th, approximately 20 youth will gather virtually to learn about restorative justice, decolonization, youth justice issues and much more. Throughout the Lab, youth will build useful interpersonal, conflict resolution, and project management skills. Youth will receive a welcome package containing reading and preparation materials, be connected to mentors who are active in the community and work in teams to develop projects to be presented at the cohort's Graduation gathering. We anticipate that this opportunity will lead to life-long connections within our local youth, restorative and social justice communities. Ultimately, the Youth Justice Lab is an opportunity to learn, grow, and build relationships.

Youth Justice Lab Mentors

As part of the Lab, our participants will be joined by mentors to offer support and guidance throughout the program. Mounting evidence suggests that meaningful youth engagement has a significant positive impact on youth people and their communities. This includes improved health and self-confidence, and skill development they carry with them through life. We are thrilled to be joined by an incredible team of mentors to support this work. Mentors will connect with youth through independent sessions outside the cohort schedule, offering an opportunity to deepen connections and learn from one another. We hope these connections will grow, and that our participants will find new friends and role models in these mentors. Our mentors come from a wide-range of backgrounds and bring with them a variety of professional and lived experiences.

This week, we are introducing four of our mentors: Jay Castro, Anastasia Gaisenok, Ravi Patel, and Zofia Switkowski.

Stay tuned next week as we introduce the remaining mentors, and officially launch the Youth Justice Lab! 

Jay Castro 

Jay (he/him) is a settler of Filipino descent aspiring to make meaningful connections in the world through media, education, and community-building, having worked with clients and organizations both locally and internationally. He sits on the Board at VIVO Media Arts, organizes for Climate Justice with Our Time Vancouver, built bonds with change-makers as a 2020 RADIUS Fellow, daydreams about his family’s future, writes poetry, and runs his own video-making business. He has yet to learn how important it is to not be too busy but he's working on it. Right, Jay?

Anastasia Gaisenok 

Anastasia is an experienced leader, innovator, consultant, and coach. An immigrant from Eastern Europe, she settled on unceded Coast Salish Territories in 2003 and has worked in the non-profit sector ever since focusing on education for social justice and systems change. Anastasia has led and managed the work of coalitions and organizations in various roles, including that of an Executive Director. She is now utilizing her rich experience and a diverse skill set in her independent practice through Green Amber Consulting. Anastasia holds a BA in Anthropology, an MA in International Studies, and a Certificate in Evaluation for Social Change and Transformational Learning from Simon Fraser University.

Ravi Patel 

Ravi moved to Vancouver in April 2018 from London, UK. He has spent his career working at the intersection of social impact, social justice, technology and business. Outside of work, Ravi is an active community builder for Men of Colour, creating brave spaces where they can show up and build emotional depth together. He also sits on the board of the Street Corner Media Foundation (Megaphone Magazine), which is a magazine sold on the streets of Vancouver by homeless vendors. You can also find him in a dance studio practicing bachata and hip hop, and he is always keen to meet people who can help him improve his rusty Spanish and French skills as well!

Zofia Switkowski

Zofia is a passionate restorative justice practitioner, advocate, and trainer, whose work focuses on fostering safe and relational school environments. After a personal experience with restorative justice, Zofia grew into restorative work and has gone on to serve as a program coordinator for various schools-based restorative justice initiatives. Her facilitation background includes professional development for educators, youth dialogue events, victim-offender mediation, and community-building circles in K-12 and tertiary education settings. Zofia is also a trained facilitator with the Alternatives to Violence Project and has served as the BC Coordinator for Shaking the Movers youth workshops. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Criminology and Psychology from Simon Fraser University and sits on the Board of the Canadian Restorative Justice Consortium.  She currently coordinates the schools-based Restorative Action Program with Fraser Region Community Justice Initiatives, in Langley, B.C.   

The Youth Justice Lab is supported by the SFU Community Engagement Initiative, the Government of Canada’s Emergency Community Support Fund and the West Vancouver Community Foundation.