New Earth is helping incarcerated teens transition back into their community
Harry Grammer has been named a CNN hero for his efforts with incarcerated youth. His organization, New Earth, is providing youth and young adults – ages 13-25 with arts, meditation, jobs and more.
New Earth started with only three students and is now serving over 2,500. The organization started in a coffee shop with open-mic sessions and has since grown to two reentry centers that show students a new way of life. The centers provide an accredited high school diploma, counseling, art, yoga, and job training. There is an 83 percent success rate in keeping the students who Grammer works with out of the juvenile probation system once they are released.
“I was working in corporate and it just wasn’t fulfilling. I felt like there was something more that I could give to the world,” said Grammer. “After a soul search, I decided that I wanted to be the person that I never had in my life for others.”
New Earth also works with teens who are currently incarcerated. It’s first program, FLOW, which stands for Fluent Love of Word, began in 2004. FLOW brings poetry into the juvenile detention centers in Los Angeles so that the youth can get out their thoughts and feelings. The poems are then produced into musical projects.
“At first, I looked at where I could teach. I’m not a credentialed teacher, I’m a poet,” said Grammer. “So I formed a program called FLOW, where we bring poetry to the juvenile detention centers in Los Angeles and we teach them how to find their voice, we teach them how to tell their own stories and through their stories they begin to learn about themselves.”
One of New Earth’s latest programs is the job program they started in 2013 with Explore.org, an online portal into the lives and habitats of endangered species and rescue animals. The website allows you to click on 40 different links that lead to live-camera action of animals in their natural habitat. The young people at New Earth are trained as remote camera operators, giving them experience with directing live television. Students are payed $12 an hour and are taught courses in graphic design and Photoshop.
“We have put 50 students through this year-long program and we just got funding to get 40 more students working,” said Grammer. “For many of them, this is their first job so they learn those soft skills on how to speak to an employer, how to show up on time, how to have your clothes right and how to be in a working community. Our job program is geared towards the tech world, so they also learn the hard skills on how to manage and operate cameras. They go through graphic design and photoshop courses and next month we want to start programming and coding classes.”
The goal of New Earth is to transition youth back into their community and combat the school-to -prison pipeline. They accomplish this by exposing the youth to a broader perspective, by improving their mental, emotional and financial state. Grammer’s passion for helping incarcerated youth comes from him seeing the flaws in the juvenile justice system.
“Once you start to see why kids are here and why they’re locked up; it begins to get really interesting. Students are getting locked up for getting in school fights and having bad grades,” said Grammer. “I began to see a lot of things that are wrong in our system. Most of them are not high-risk but high-need.”
For more information on New Earth, visit www.newearthlife.org.