As Racine County’s youth development care center superintendent, Antonio Chavez is always looking for the best tools to foster an inclusive environment for the young people housed at
Racine County Juvenile Detention.
Both staff and youth at the care center benefit when diversity is valued.
“We’re actually more innovative, and we work better when we have all these different experiences,” Chavez said. “From a staffing purpose, it’s so much more collaborative to have experiences and backgrounds because of who we watch. It’s so important for the kids to see that because they’re going back out into our communities.”
To inform best practices at Racine’s current facility and at a new center expected to break ground next year, Racine County partnered with University of Wisconsin–Madison students through the UniverCity Year program to compile evidence-based practices to train staff on diversity, equity, and inclusion that could be used in future staff training modules. This resource library, created by Global Health students, includes a video series and modules about diversity, equity, and inclusion, case studies, discussion worksheets to facilitate collaborative activities about implicit biases, and articles that discuss cultural and linguistic competency.
“It makes me really pleased that our students are assisting with addressing diversity around the state,” said UniverCity Alliance co-chair Lori DiPrete Brown.
UniverCity Alliance managing director Gavin Luter said the project was “exciting to see unfold” and offered a unique chance to partner with medical students.
“These students listened to Chavez’s most pressing needs, and they delivered exactly what he wanted,” Luter said. “There aren’t many opportunities where we get to work with aspiring
medical students. These experiences open our students’ eyes and will hopefully make them better medical professionals by making them more aware of social issues.”
Chavez said the care center uses resources like the ones included in the library during onboarding of new staff and in ongoing training. He’s also keeping in mind diversity when hiring, so that youth can see themselves represented among staff at the cafe center.
“Kids need to be able to see mentors and people that they can look up to,” Chavez said.
In activities for the youth, Chavez said he also aims to highlight different cultures through a UW Extension culinary program. He also hopes to incorporate artwork into the new facility that celebrates multiculturalism.
Chavez said partnerships like UniverCity Year are important in the care center’s efforts to engage the broader community.
Racine County is partnering with UniverCity from 2020–23 to understand best practice in juvenile justice, including the design, construction, hiring practices of detention workers and staff, as well as classroom and trauma-informed care practices to ensure its most vulnerable youth — particularly young people of color—are placed in a facility that can foster long-term success upon after to the community.
“[The partnership] has been priceless when it comes to the feedback,” Chavez said. “Getting people outside of the community involved gives us a different perspective when it comes to some
of the ways we handle youth, the way we educate youth, the way we train staff, and the way we share information.”