By Sophia Ling
Carmel High School junior Karolena Zhou has seen firsthand the impact of the teen court program.
It can be an emotional experience serving with other students on a jury of peers for those 12 to 18 years old going through the restorative justice program available in Marion and Johnson counties. Zhou has seen a fair share of tears and apologies.
“As families embraced, I saw despair transformed into hope and a family’s love strengthened,” she said. “It is incredible to see hopelessness and despair being replaced by hope and a better future for countless children and their family members.”
Zhou believes so strongly in the program that she has begun selling handmade flower arrangements to support it. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, she has sold enough arrangements to donate $1,000, enough to send 10 youth through the teen court program.
Zhou also created the Teen Court Club at CHS, which launched in the fall of 2020. The club offers students an opportunity to learn about court proceedings and experience real cases. As a juror in the teen court, Zhou is trained in the judicial process. She attends hearings, sentences defendants with a group of peers and determines fair and appropriate restorative actions.
Zhou has received training to act as an attorney in teen court but has been unable to do so because of the pandemic.
The teen court program aims to decrease rates of school suspension and expulsion and reduce recidivism in the juvenile justice system.
Follow the Reach for Youth page on Facebook for more details on future flower sales.