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Virginia Youth Justice Advocate Wins National Award

June 14, 2018


Josh Gordon, 217-801-2009


Virginia Youth Justice Advocate Wins National Award
Valerie Slater Recognized for Tenacious Effort on behalf of Youth

Valerie Slater, Esq, RISE for Youth Campaign Coordinator and Staff Attorney, is being recognized next month as an emerging leader in youth justice reform by the National Juvenile Justice Network (NJJN), based in Washington, D.C.

The Youth Justice Emerging Leader Award honors passionate and bold youth justice advocates who are committed to raising up the voices and experiences of system-involved youth and people of color to ensure that those most directly affected by the system are at the forefront of the youth justice movement.

“Valerie embodies the vital perseverance required in the youth justice reform movement,” said Sarah Bryer, NJJN President and Executive Director. “She is an inspiring visionary who uplifts vulnerable communities and brings their voices to the table where decisions are made.”

Against all odds, Valerie led a coordinated campaign that successfully advocated against the building of a new youth prison in Chesapeake, Virginia. RISE for Youth held several community visioning sessions in Hampton Roads to talk directly with community members about the proposed youth facility and brought their feedback to the Chesapeake City Council.

Valerie lifts up the voices of directly impacted youth and communities in her advocacy and it guides her direction and vision. This year, she wrote and released a report specifically on the insight she gained from members of the Hampton Roads community.  

Valerie joined Legal Aid’s JustChildren Program in 2016 as a juvenile justice attorney and coordinator for the RISE for Youth Coalition. RISE for Youth is a non-partisan campaign in support of community alternatives to youth incarceration in Virginia. Valerie’s work focuses on educating communities and policy makers on the detrimental effects of youth incarceration; advancing efforts to create community based rehabilitative models as alternatives to incarceration; advocating for the rights of incarcerated youth; and closing youth prisons. Valerie earned her Juris Doctor in 2012 from the University of Richmond School of Law, where she was recognized for her commitment to youth advocacy in the clinic programs. Valerie earned her bachelor of arts in liberal arts with a social science concentration and a minor in criminal justice in 2009 from Colorado State University. Valerie has dedicated her life’s work to advocacy in its many forms to preserve and protect the Commonwealth’s most valuable resource, young people.

“Valerie understands that a truly meaningful juvenile justice transformation can only happen if the voices of young people and communities are put front and center,” said Liz Ryan, Youth First Initiative Executive Director. “That’s why she works tirelessly to get young people and their families a seat at the table. I have no doubt that her advocacy will lead to a better system and a brighter future for youth across Virginia.”

Ryan credits Slater for pushing VA advocates beyond transactional interactions and story-gathering to more meaningful, family-like relationships where youth feel cared for and empowered to advocate for themselves. Slater continues to be instrumental in bringing youth who are directly impacted by the broken juvenile justice system to policy discussions in order to enable sustainable change.

The award will be given July 17, 2018, at an annual gathering in Durham, North Carolina of youth justice advocates from across the country.

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The National Juvenile Justice Network is composed of coalitions, organizations and alumni of the Youth Justice Leadership Institute across 41 states and the District of Columbia, all of whom advocate for a fairer justice system for children and teens. For more information, visit www.njjn.org.

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