By Raul Higgins, Contributing Writer
After a 3-year hiatus, San Quentin’s Kid CAT program makes a resilient return, helping incarcerated men rebuild and redefine their lives.
Kid CAT is a Youth Support Lifer’s program. “Kid” represents the community of youth offenders. The CAT acronym stands for Creating Awareness Together.
The 52-week comprehensive program covers accountability, personal responsibility and healing.
Outside volunteers and inside incarcerated facilitators meet with Kid CAT participants every second and fourth Sunday afternoon.
“Working together with the Kid CAT members, facilitators, and volunteers, we achieve our goals by giving back to our communities,” said Kenny Vernon, Kid CAT chairman and facilitator.
Kid CAT is comprised of people from diverse backgrounds. This diversity contributes to cohesiveness of the group as members share their different perspectives.
Today, they are navigating a path toward making positive, productive contributions to society. They strive to maintain a vision of awareness, with an understanding of the value of working together as they encourage each other to become better leaders in their community.
Part of team Kid CAT is Dr. Adam Zagelbaum, Sonoma State University professor and chair of the school’s department of counseling. He brings a team of student interns and graduates into San Quentin to help with the group.
“Moving forward, it is my ultimate vision to help and serve school counselors to develop curriculums or others forms of experiences to help at risk people have support they can rely upon,” said Zagelbaum.
Collectively, Kid CAT collaborates to create a safe place saturated with knowledge, healthy relationship skills and personal empowerment.
“My vision for Kid CAT is to create, be a part of meaningful connections and experiences allowing for learning, awareness, and healing for those I work with. Therefore the larger society can look at people as more than just their actions,” said Courtney Crokow, a Kid CAT facilitator and high school counselor.
Volunteering professionals like Crokow and Zagelbaum bring a wealth of knowledge to bear in their service to Kid CAT participants. The proof is in the pudding.
“For me this comes through and shows up in difficult times, like doing homework when I didn’t feel like doing it. Working on things, such as talking about my childhood, was really hard,” said Chase Benoit, a youth offender and Kid CAT facilitator. “[That is what we do] in Kid CAT.”