Hometown: Bethlehem, PA -Saucon
Majors: Criminal Justice major, Spanish Minor
Child Welfare Certification, Crime and Community Mapping Certificate,
Crime mapping assistant
Class of 2021
In class, Victoria Kohn ’21 is a criminal justice major and Spanish minor who focuses on learning everything she can about criminal justice from crime mapping to understanding the judicial system. Outside the classroom, she is determined to make a difference serving as president of the Criminal Justice Club and already getting real-world experience for a future career in juvenile justice and probation.
A course on juvenile justice taught by Paul Werrell, instructor of criminal justice, exposed Victoria to issues most often debated by criminal justice advocates and opponents and taught her to analyze both sides of an argument. It focused her interest in the rehabilitative nature of juvenile justice and empowered her to take action in her community.
”I want to help kids get back on the right track to being positive members in society and our community,” said Victoria. She now spends most of her free time volunteering for two programs that help local youth do just that.
Victoria volunteers often for The IMPACT Project, a children and youth agency. She is the campus representative for their mentoring program, the Collegiate Enrichment Program, which partners with Cedar Crest’s Lutz Center for Community Service to hold the enrichment program on campus.
The IMPACT Project also runs a community justice panel diversion program that is held in locations across the Lehigh Valley including on Cedar Crest College’s campus and downtown Allentown. The panels are coordinated by Werrell, a former chief juvenile probation officer, and volunteers like Victoria make up the review panel.
“These are real people and real-life cases I work with. It is not just reading the cases like you do in class,” said Victoria. Her foundation of understanding was laid in her coursework, and now she is getting real practice.
Volunteers like Victoria are trained by The IMPACT Project to uphold Balanced and Restorative Justice Principles. Instead of going to court, first-time, juvenile offenders charged with summary and misdemeanor offenses and their families meet with Victoria and other panel members. They discuss everything from the crime to school and issues at home. As a panel member, Victoria works to determine a contract of goals for the youth to complete and serves as a monitor through the process. If the contract is completed the youth is not formally judged, and fines are dismissed. If the contract is not completed, then the panel refers the youth to the traditional court system.
The program’s effect is significant according to Victoria, “We are making a difference by alleviating resources for courts and officers and making a difference for these kids.”