Democracy is a verb.


Juvenile Justice Council

Mikva Challenge’s Juvenile Justice Council (JJC) is a group of young advocates on the mission to improve the juvenile justice system in Cook County, Illinois. They exist to represent youth voices of all those in Cook County who are not heard or counted.

In partnership with Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle and the Judicial Advisory Council, Mikva Challenge launched the Juvenile Justice Council (JJC) in the summer of 2013. JJC serves as an advisory and advocacy body that provides diverse youth perspectives on the policies and programs involving young people and the criminal justice system, with a particular emphasis on how to reduce rates of incarceration and recidivism among juvenile youth in Cook County.

Noteworthy Achievements:
  • Present recommendations annually to the Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle on how to improve outcomes for court-involved youth.
  • Partnered with Superintendent Leondard Dixon and Juvenile Temporary Detention Center staff to redesign spaces at the JTDC to ensure they are more youth-friendly.
  • Collaborated with tech gurus to create a web app,, which allows youth to find out if they qualify to expunge their criminal record and links youth to pro bono lawyers who will help them expunge their record.
  • Lobbied for the Automatic Expungement Bill in Springfield, IL and was recognized at the Reconnecting Pathways Conference for their efforts.

“While their presence and charisma was inspiring, it was how they substantiated the reason/purpose for the recommendations that was most motivating and caused an immediate internalized commitment that we would do what we could to bring their ideas to life.”
– Bilqis Jacobs-El, Director, Facilities Management at Cook County

More Information:

Read the letter written by Bilqis Jacobs-El, Director, Facilities Management at Cook County, about her partnership with Mikva’s Juvenile Justice Council.

Read JJC’s policy papers:

How might we improve outcomes for youth transitioning from system involvement to community?

How might we improve the experiences and outcomes of young people in juvenile court?

What tools, policies and practices are necessary to prevent opportunity youth from engaging with the juvenile justice system?




of Mikva alumni are registered voters, vs. only 53% of 18-29 yr. olds nationwide


of Mikva alumni continue to volunteer in their communities, vs. only 36% of 18-29 yr. olds nationwide


young people served in the Chicagoland area, California and Washington DC


of Mikva alumni encourage their friends and family to be politically engaged, vs. only 35% of 18-29 yr. olds nationwide


Mikva students serve as election judges each election cycle


students from 117 schools nationwide presented speeches and/or worked on civic action projects


teachers participate in Mikva Challenge programs across the country.


students campaigned during the 2015-16 Election Season

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