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High school student appointed to Countywide Juvenile Justice Consortium

Published: Sep. 6, 2021 at 5:35 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - For the first time, a teen sits on a county committee that is for the youth.

Zahra Chowdhury is a senior at Pleasant View High School in Memphis, but she’s much more than just a student. She’s a youth organizer who was recently appointed to the Countywide Juvenile Justice Consortium (CJJC) by Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris.

“It makes me really excited to see that people in our government not only are making a way for young people but making it easier and want to include young people in government,” Chowdhury said.

The consortium came together as a result of a 2012 memorandum of agreement between the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Juvenile Court of Memphis & Shelby County. When the DOJ ended the agreement, the committee was formed.

“Bring that community voice back to those who are making decisions in the city around justice, around crime and present a unified voice. As a community, here’s what we think could be done,” said Vice-Chair Jennifer Turchi.

Turchi says it’s important to include the youth in decisions that impact them.

“What better way to really highlight some of those issues and needs than to have a youth sitting on our committee,” Turchi said.

Chowdhury was selected because of her involvement in the juvenile justice system.

“Most of my work has been around deconstructing the school to prison pipeline, reforming our juvenile justice system,” Chowdhury said.

Chowdhury recently started a criminal justice reform advocacy group at her high school. She’s also part of the Shelby County Youth Justice Action Council and is on the advisory board for the new youth assessment center opening in Raleigh.

Harris says Chowdhury “came highly recommended by community leaders” and is “grateful that she is willing to take on this commitment during what I am sure is a very busy senior year.”

Chowdhury hopes she can encourage other youth to get involved in committees that discuss issues they are passionate about.

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