Freedom 4 Youth (F4Y) has grown a comprehensive, grassroots, community-based program that empowers people within and beyond the juvenile justice system. We were co-founded in 2008 by Billi Jo Starr, Ph.D., and the youth at Los Prietos Boys Camp (LPBC) after creating an officially recognized Toastmasters Charter called Toastmasters Soldiers (TMS). TMS was the first chapter of its kind for youth in the juvenile justice system. In 2011, Toastmasters Soldiers evolved into Freedom 4 Youth, a nonprofit organization, where youth participated in a weekly leadership program at LPBC. Youth in the program in 2012 then went on to create the Freedom 4 Youth Advocates, a University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) campus-based mentorship organization that supports youth involved in the justice system. The Freedom 4 Youth Advocates have a combined total of 30,250+ volunteer hours and counting. There are currently 13 active advocates and a total of 146 alumni advocates. Many alumni have gone on to receive master’s degrees in social work, enter teacher education programs and law schools or join the workforce as counselors, case managers, and law enforcement officers.
We opened our Center in 2019 after having operated without a physical location for over a decade. Since then, F4Y has exponentially grown, serving 220+ individuals each year, nearly all of whom have been directly impacted by the criminal legal system.