Leaders Create New Restorative Justice Program for San Mateo County Youth

Photo L to R: Karin Huber-Levy, Kate Hiester, and Kate Wilson; Karin Huber-Levy and Kate Wilson are alumni of the CORPS Class of 2022, and Kate Hiester is an alumni of the CORPS Class of 2023.

Collaboration. Trust. Action.

Witnessing moments when Leadership CORPS participants collaborate to benefit people in San Mateo County (SMC) is exciting. In this case, young people in San Mateo County are the beneficiaries.

Karin Huber-Levy, Vice Chair of the SMC’s Juvenile Justice & Delinquency Prevention Commission (“the Commission”), and Kate Wilson, Gilead Foundation President, met as fellow participants in Leadership Council SMC’s CORPS Class of 2022. Together they coordinated the funding of Peer Point, a new restorative justice program for SMC youth with a $500,000 grant from Gilead Foundation’s Creating Possible Fund. Peer Point aims to address systemic inequities in the San Mateo County juvenile justice system and in school disciplinary practices for youth from underserved communities across the County. Peer Point is a restorative, healing-centered intervention that centers on youth agency and aims to keep youth out of the juvenile justice system.

The Gilead Foundation grant became the cornerstone funding of the program, with additional funding received from foundations in the County.

With funding secured, the Commission initially managed the program, while also examining implementation options that would ensure Peer Point’s long term success. An amazing opportunity presented itself when the Commission approached Kate Hiester, Regional Director of Fresh Lifelines for Youth (FLY), who was already a community partner working with the Commission. FLY was the perfect partner to lead Peer Point going forward given its proven success in partnering with high-needs youth, who are most at risk of justice system involvement. After discussions, planning, and preparations, the team at FLY agreed to take on the further development and fully launch the Peer Point program.

Peer Point began training peer advocates and serving youth facing suspension at Menlo Atherton High School in January 2023. By early fall, more than 90 youth have participated in Peer Point’s restorative services.

The combination of collaboration, trust, and action that was sparked when Karin Huber-Levy met Kate Wilson at Leadership CORPS accelerated the exciting, new Peer Point program.

History of Peer Point

Peer Point came into being in 2021 when the Commission focused on ways to provide affordable and accessible diversion programs across the County to address existing inequities. Diversion programs provide alternative paths to help prevent youth from entering the juvenile justice system, yet the Commission found that access to these programs was uneven and inequitable across the County.

With their goal of bringing the restorative justice principles practiced in some San Mateo County schools to more youth, the Commission developed Peer Point, initially modeled after a “peer court” program in Marin County. As a diversion program, Peer Point was designed in collaboration with a large youth team and Youth Commissioners in the County. The program trains youth to serve as peer advocates in restorative circles, a scripted process led by peers and guided by adults and mentors, with a goal of keeping kids in school and addressing the root causes of harmful behaviors.

As described above, Peer Point Program launched officially in January 2023 at Menlo-Atherton High School (M-A).

As the 2023-2024 school year, gets underway, the program has gained strength with a new group of M-A students learning to be peer advocates by completing a nine-week “Community Circles” training on campus. Key to this element of the program at M-A is this community aspect which creates restorative circles for students facing suspension that are led by classmates from their own school, building a safety net and the strength of on-campus support.

FLY continues to seek opportunities to expand the program through collaboration with cities across the County. 

For more information about Peer Point and Fresh Lifelines for Youth, visit: www.flyprogram.org.