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Congratulations to the 2019 PbS Kids Got Talent Contest Finalists

The PbS Kids Got Talent Contest launched in 2015 to challenge the field to extend their commitment to treating all youths in custody as one of our own. The contest also provides youths with the opportunity to compete for a chance to win an all-expense paid trip to perform before a live audience. The PbS team is very grateful for the 378 entries received since the contest began, but it has not been without its own challenges. We are currently trying to find ways to positively praise the creative efforts and vulnerability of the youths without sacrificing privacy and welcome any feedback on how to improve this program to encourage even more participation. The reason the contest continues can be summed up by the words of last year’s performer, “I just want to keep performing!”

Every year we are impressed with the entries, not just because of the talents but also because of the strength and courage each youth presents. We have laughed at the comedy skits, tapped our feet to the flows and beats of the songwriters and shed tears at the readings of spoken words and poems. Every year we hear more stories about innovative approaches to fuel youths’ creativity and provide opportunities for them to be kids, have fun and enjoy positive recognition. One staff member said they integrated music as a therapeutic approach, others said it motivated youths to achieve higher behavior management levels in order to participate. This contest started as a way to give kids an opportunity to be creative; we’re proud to say that it has grown into a tool for staff to use for accountability and relationship building.

This year, we received a total of 62 entries from 88 youths. After careful consideration and a lot of video-watching, the internal PbS judging team selected 12 awesome performances as the finalists to send to the Kids Got Talent Contest Judge Panel. (PbS will not publish the youths’ names this year to respect and protect their privacy.)

• Spoken words by H. R., who creatively wove in Greek mythology, from Circleville Juvenile Correctional Facility, Ohio Department of Youth Services

• A poem by Z. C., written for her mother, from Copper Lake School, Wisconsin Division of Juvenile Corrections

• A fully produced music video called “What You Know” by I. L., J. G., J. C. and Z. M., from Ferris School, Delaware Youth Rehabilitative Services Division

• A detailed painting and description by L. N., from Grand Mesa Youth Service Center, Colorado Division of Youth Services

• A group dance and step routine by A. A., A. L., D. P., G. G. and M. K., from IYC – Warrenville, Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice

• A cover of Johnny Cash by A. F. and J. S., from Logansport JCF, Indiana Department of Correction, Juvenile Services

• An original song written and performed by M. H., from Logansport JCF, Indiana Department of Correction, Juvenile Services

• A cover of The Beatles by J. L., an original rap by L. M. and an original song by S. M., from Maricopa County Juvenile Detention Center – Durango, Maricopa County Juvenile Probation Department

• An original song by D. W. and a cover of “Wipeout” by K. Z., from Pine Hills Youth Correctional Facility, Montana Juvenile Division, Department of Corrections

Congratulations to the finalists and all performers. Performing takes not only talent but confidence and commitment and they all rocked! The solo winner will be invited to perform live at the annual awards night on Aug. 2 in Boston. Stay tuned for spotlights on each of the performances over the coming weeks.

Thank you to all the facility staff and agency directors who supported the youths throughout this process. Whether you developed programs, helped produce the videos or sent them to PbS, we appreciate your efforts.

A big thank you also to our judges:

• Sarah Joy Albrecht, Program Analyst, Public Welfare Foundation

• Jozy B, musician, former contestant on The Voice

• Nate Balis, Director, Juvenile Justice Strategy Group, The Annie E. Casey Foundation

• Patrick Griffin, Senior Program Officer, Criminal Justice, MacArthur Foundation

• Caren Harp, Administrator, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention

• Marc Schindler, Executive Director, Justice Policy Institute

• Naomi Smoot, Executive Director, Coalition for Juvenile Justice

• Susan Wornick, TV host

Read more about:  Awards, Kids Got Talent

About the author



PbS measures and monitors facility practices by collecting and reporting data from administrative records and survey responses from youths, staff and families to provide a holistic picture of the conditions and quality of life in residential facilities, highlights the practices that are effective in promoting youths’ healthy maturation and identifies those that are not. PbS data is reported every April and October.  PbS trains staff to use the information to change practices and support reforms implementing the adolescent development approach.

PbS has been a partner in assisting this facility to become a dynamic work environment that is not satisfied with maintaining the status quo.