Youth offenders and prisoners focus on incorporating the entire community
The latest graduating cycle of KidCAT’s First Step curriculum marked the end of a distinct era in this ground- breaking program’s history.
The youth offender support community celebrated and said heartfelt goodbyes on June 30 to four of its outside volunteer facilitators—and also to inside lead facilitator, Fateen Jackson, who was found suitable for parole and returned to society oct. 1.
“It’s a bittersweet experience that several of us are leaving the program,” said Jackson. “Nat, Channing, Tayyibah and Lily were instrumental in making sure that the guys inside were not forgotten.
“Their continued commitment to the First Step program is greatly appreciated, and they’ll surely be missed.”
An added bonus to the festivities included the return of Anouthin Pangthong—a formerly incarcerated youth offender, KidCAT member and First Step graduate, who paroled from SQ in 2018.
For the last three years, Natalie Bell has devoted her Sundays—and also many Thursdays—to come into SQ as the main outside facilitator and work with KidCAT to form a cohesive team.
“This is one of those rare programs, where people that you work with on the inside will get out—be released,” observed Bell. “To see our work actualized in real time, it’s incredibly gratifying.
“At least 20% of our graduates that I’ve seen get out and every inside lead facilitator has paroled so far.”
“For me, coming back is a great honor,” said Pang thong, who everyone at SQ knows simply as “Choi.”
“Folks in here are just as deserving—or more—to be out there with me.
“Noticing and observing the camaraderie inside this building and how people interact with each other— that’s what I miss the most about being around you
guys. That’s why I wanted to come back inside today.”
Jackson shares the same sentiments about the com- munity he is about to leave behind. “I do intend to stay connected to the KidCAT program upon my release— in whatever way I’m need- ed,” he said. “I’m not going toforgetaboutmybrothers inside.
“It was awesome to see Choi again in a different capacity—to see him as an outside person was surreal. That’s the endgame for all of us.”
KidCAT Chairman Si Dang himself graduated with this First Step class— a longstanding requirement for full-fledged KidCAT membership.
“The KidCAT community is not just about youth offenders and prisoners,” said Dang. “We focus on incorporating the entire community—outside and inside—to better serve the youth in any way we can.
“So many truly wonderful people continue to be a part of KidCAT. It’s overwhelming at times.”
Lilly F. facilitated First Step for her second time. “It’s deeply moving to see the changes that happen within the participants from beginning to end,” she said. “They’re all different—each of them their own unique snowflake.
“So many positive trans- formations happened right here as a direct result of the incredible amount of insight gained from this curriculum.”
“The First Step curriculum gave me the ability to under- stand the root of my belief system—my thinking, my behavior,” said Jackson. “And those eight modules contributed to a deeper understanding of how I was ultimately affected by those beliefs.”
The outside facilitation team made sure to let Jackson know that their support will not cease once he leaves SQ.
“At least 20% of our graduates that I’ve seen get out and every inside lead facilitator has paroled so far”
“Whatever you need on the outside, Fateen, if it’s within my capacity to provide it for you, I’ll be there,” said Bell.
“We’re so grateful for your ability to juggle many different needs, many different commitments as our lead facilitator,” said Lilly F. “I’m sure those skills will play into your success on the outside. And yeah, I’m echoing Nat here—whatever you need.”
Tayyibah H. spent two years as a First Step facilitator. “First and foremost, this is about not forgetting that incarcerated people are part of our community,” she said. “You all deserve the opportunity to grow and heal from trauma—the opportunity to connect with the outside to share ideas, share space.
“Through every curriculum cycle, the process of self-exploration allows us to examine our own identity— past, present and future.”
Taayibah H. also wanted to emphasize and acknowledge Ronald Carter’s efforts as he prepares to assume Jackson’s duties for the next cycle.
“To witness and be a part of all your personal growth—you’re going to be a great lead facilitator when Fateen leaves,” she said.
Channing Richmond, the fourth outside volunteer to be ending her tenure, reflected back on why she originally committed her time to the program.
“I actively made a decision to come in and do this because of my personal philosophy to provide support and true compassionate presence to all who need it,” said Richmond. “I have been privileged and honored to be here with you. Everybody comes into this space in a different way to create a beautiful mixture of self-exploration.
“My life’s taken some twists and turns—things I have to prioritize. Leaving your program right now truly feels like a loss for me.
“I trust in my absence you’ll work to find other outside facilitators. The spirit of KidCAT lives on no matter what—it’s not about us.”
Bell would not disclose what her new plans are, other than to say she is leaving to pursue her social reform goals in a more expansive realm.
“Everything finally came together, and all the puzzle pieces just fit. I’m proud and excited to see what the future has in store,” she said. “Someone said the most important step in any journey is the first.
“During my three years with the program, I’ve gotten to know and support so many of my peers and comrades.”
“Natalie was the anchor of the outside facilitators. She ensured the curriculum stayed on course that everything started on time,” said Jackson. “She has the professionalism and character to facilitate gracefully without judgment.”
Pangthong addressed the group after everyone— graduates and facilita- tors—accepted their certif- icates and spoke about their personal journeys through First Step.
“Acknowledge the hard work y’all have done for yourselves. We don’t always take the time to appreciate what we’ve accomplished together,” he said. “It took hella years, but we arrived!
“Acknowledge and know your own true potential. Once you see that in yourself, nothing can get in your way.”
Receiving their First Step certification: Chase Benoit, Markee Carter, Joseph Demerson, Ryan Dietz, Vashon Jones, Max Lopez, Juan Meza, Brett Ownbey, Michael Pulido, Shawn Reyes, Ricardo Romero, Jaime Sanchez, Hieu Thai, Alvin Timbol, Thanh Tran, Bradley Ware, Rhone Watson and Troy Young.