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How to Cope in Times of COVID-19

From a young person to a young person

Dear youth,

I would like to start by acknowledging that this pandemic has taken peace and certainty from you at an already vulnerable and difficult time in your life. You are a person. You deserve an education full of quality, you deserve family visits, you deserve phone calls and you deserve to have access to necessities. Unfortunately for many, court dates and some program activities have been cancelled, therapy is less accessible, and you may have lost some of the only things that keep you sane during your time in the system. I understand - there were times when my court dates got cancelled, my time got extended because there were no open beds at my next placement, and sometimes, I simply felt like I had no control over my life.

Here is a list of things I did during times of uncertainty that I hope will help you too:

  • Asked staff to print a 30-day workout challenge
  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Cried into a pillow
  • Asked to talk to my favorite staff – find a favorite staff!
  • Read books or magazines
  • Called family
  • Wrote letters to family
  • Talked to peers
  • Wrote/drew- find your inner artist
  • Created a vision board with goals for while I was there and for the future


The youth at the Juvenile Justice Campus in Fresno, CA design posters for first responders


Some of my favorite activities that I still turn to to this day were workout challenges and reminding myself to breathe. Shift changes for staff were a great time to complete the workout challenges since they were already regularly scheduled breaks when I had a few minutes to myself. I still have and do some of the workout challenges staff printed for me. It sometimes sounds silly, but deep breathing exercises are also useful for staying calm. I’ve even taught my young nephew to use them. When he gets really upset, we sit together and pretend to inhale all of the air from the room- hold it in- then let it out. We will repeat it three times and feel refreshed afterward.

It also helps to remember that you are worthy. What this pandemic took from you is not personal, it is situational. I believe in you and we will make it through this. COVID-19 will not be the end all be all, this is a short moment in our potentially long, positive and extravagant futures. I wish for you and all of those around you to be healthy mentally, emotionally, and physically. If you do turn to writing or drawing, please feel free to send it to me – I would love to hear how the pandemic is affecting life for you.


Jaclyn Cirinna

PbS Youth Coordinator





About the author

Jaclyn Cirinna

Jaclyn Cirinna

The PbS Youth Coordinator position was created in 2019 to ensure PbS’ work includes input and feedback from the youths we serve. The first coordinator was hired thanks to support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and is focusing on initiatives to grow the Education and Employment Foundation to reach more youths.

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