Our Model

Friends anchors and supports young people newly released from jails in New York City. The longer they remain engaged by and connected to Friends, the greater the influence we have on their path to staying out of jail, out of harm’s way, rebuilding their lives and reclaiming their futures.

Youth Advocacy

All services at Friends of Island Academy are rooted in a program called Youth Advocacy. Each youth member who joins Friends gets a single Youth Advocate, who serves as a counselor, mentor, coach and friend.

Youth Advocacy has four central tenets:

  1. Face-to-face interactions which begin while youth are still incarcerated and follow youth into the community.
  2. Young people remain engaged with Friends for 1-4 years in varying degrees of intensity, and often stay connected with us long after they “graduate” and move on.
  3. Individualized, flexible plans for every youth member, which leverage the specific strengths, talents, interests, resources and obstacles of each individual.
  4. Youth Leadership: often the most effective role models for justice-involved young people are their peers.  Youth Advocates train members in civic engagement, take them on civic projects, and ultimately teach them to mentor other youth from their community or background, inspiring change on a larger scale.


While discreetly funded programs allow us to provide targeted services for youth (e.g. ARCHES for youth on Probation or Step Up for adolescent fathers leaving Rikers Island), Youth Advocacy is the common thread that promotes long-term engagement and continuity across all program services. Youth Advocacy is funded by donations from people like you.

“I believe that everything happens for a reason, and that sometimes all you need is the right person to influence you to change your life.”

Stephon, Youth Member