Our organization was founded in 1990 at the Austin MacCormick Alternative High School on Rikers Island – known then as Island Academy. Friends of Island Academy was created by a group of committed New York City education, correction and social service professionals who sought to address staggering recidivism rates and demographic realities, untapped potential and minority overrepresentation among the thousands of adolescents who attend school on Rikers Island every year. As our name implies, Friends focuses on those who have attended Island Academy to help them continue their education, seek employment, and ease their transition back into the community.
Twenty years ago, Friends pioneered the delivery of post-release services to adolescents at Island Academy:
- by beginning our “post-release” work while youth are still inside and prior to their return home;
- by engaging young people without the leverage of a court mandate; and
- by developing youth leaders who harness their achievements to compel change by example among their at-risk peers
Through a combination of neighborhood-based and on site services and advocacy, Friends helps level the playing field for our youth members. Services and tools allow them to advance their education and improve their health and well-being, relationships and overall prospects to becoming economically independent, connected to their communities in positive ways.
At local, state and federal levels, the importance of supporting an ex-offender’s re-entry is a legislative and public policy priority. Friends began to address the need for post-release transitional support 22 years ago, and continues to do so to this day.