the crossover youth practice model: a better path forward

An event centerpiece video created for the Center for Juvenile justice reform, featured at the 2021 janet reno forum

  • Mark an important milestone (10th anniversary of CYPM)
  • Share programmatic impact through stories of partners and meaningful change
  • Engage stakeholders by painting a picture of the history and culture of the juvenile justice and child welfare systems and the role all stakeholders have to play in building a better path forward

project background

We have worked with the Center for Juvenile Justice Reform (CJJR) at Georgetown University for more than five years. The first project we created for them was a fundraising film for the Janet Reno endowment (more on that project here). Next we created a video project to mark CJJR’s 10th anniversary (more on that project here).

Our most recent project with CJJR was a video to feature at the 2021 Janet Reno Forum. The focus of the video was telling the story of the challenges facing crossover youth and the profound impact The Crossover Youth Practice Model has had on jurisdictions across the country.

You’ll find excerpts of the video throughout this post, accompanied by commentary on our strategy and approach.

The full video is available at the bottom of the post. 

goal, strategy, and concept

We start every project by guiding the organization through our process of developing the right strategy to meet and exceed the intended goal. The goal for this video was to create a centerpiece video for a 500-person online conference that would inspire attendees to engage with the Crossover Youth Practice Model – either more deeply, or for the first time. 

It was important to CJJR to do this by not only highlighting the model itself, but by sharing success stories from jurisdictions around the country that have implemented CYPM. 

The strategy and concept we developed hinged on two important story approaches:

The first approach was to weave the specifics of CYPM into the larger story of the juvenile justice and child welfare systems, and the challenges faced within those systems.

Video needs the structure of story to make it possible for the audience to retain the information you’re communicating.

And story is a powerful way to remind stakeholders that as practitioners of this work (whatever their role) they are uniquely positioned to make positive change in a problem that is representative of the huge issues our country continues to face. This helps pull the audience from their day-to-day tasks and be reminded of the bigger work they are a part of. 

You can see pieces of that narrative in these two excerpts.

This excerpt is the section that gives a brief history of the creation and evolution of the juvenile justice system:  

Play Video

This excerpt focuses on how systemic racism has played and continues to play a significant role in juvenile justice:

Play Video

The second approach to the CYPM video was to capture specific moments and examples from the jurisdiction stories CJJR wanted to share. 

This is a significant distinction from the type of ‘impact story’ video you often see where people are saying glowing things about an experience or an organization, but they’re doing so through broad generalizations. Audiences do not connect to generalizations.

Specific examples, told through story, are what make it possible for the audience to see themselves in the solution. In this case, this is what would make it possible for practitioners facing similar challenges to see themselves in the experiences of the individuals who are sharing their success stories. 

You can see this in the Nebraska story excerpted here: 

Play Video

ethical storytelling approach

Sharing stories of individuals who are personally affected by an issue can be an incredibly powerful way to create connection. However, in nonprofit/NGO and storytelling spaces it is fraught with unequal power dynamics. 

We are committed to developing stories with story contributors through a meaningful partnership and process to build trust and continued engagement. This process unearths rich and authentic stories that otherwise might not get told, and it ensures the stories are accurate and supportive of the community rather than centering the traditional power-holders. You can read more about this in our anti-racist pledge.

For the CYPM video project, we featured the personal story of Sonnja Brown, a practitioner whose family has been directly involved in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Sonnja brings professional expertise as well the wisdom and perspective that can only be gained through lived experience.

We used a co-author model with Sonnja, which means we incorporated checkpoints throughout story creation to get her feedback on how her family’s story was being portrayed. In addition to sharing her powerful story for the video, she provided invaluable feedback and guidance in the final editing stage. 

Here is the excerpt that shares Sonnja’s family’s story:

Play Video


When we work with an organization to create a video project for an event, we are not only thinking about the best story to tell, we’re thinking of how best to use the video to extend its impact. On top of providing the Core Video, we deliver a package of high-quality stills and video excerpts for various communication needs.

These items help you continually share the project with social media audiences and appeal to specific touch points like fundraising goals or milestones. This bite-sized distribution approach coupled with a grander plan for screening the larger version ensures that the impact of the film is even greater than originally imagined.

The CYPM video was created to be a look back, but also a look forward, as together, the community of practitioners, leaders, families, and youth chart the path onward for continuing to restructure systems to uplift the youth the systems serve. 

Here is the full 19-minute Core Video: 

Play Video

project team

Story Concept and Direction Team:

  • Catherine Orr
  • Elena Rue
  • Macon Stewart (CJJR)
  • Michael Umpierre (CJJR)
  • Shay Bilchik (CJJR)

Production & Post Production Crew:

  • Catherine Orr
  • Elena Rue
  • Josh Woll
  • Dillon Deaton
  • Marika Litz
Interviewees & Story Contributors:
  • Macon Stewart
  • Michael Umpierre
  • Shay Bilchik
  • Dr. Denise Herz
  • Amy Latshaw
  • KaCee  Zimmerman
  • Shalonda McHenry Sims
  • Celena Angstead
  • Judge Guido A. DeAngelis
  • Tim Decker
  • Hernan Carvente Martinez
  • Sonnja Brown
  • Marlon Yarber
  • Michelle Callejas