The Drug Court movement gained prominence in the 1990s, and drug courts were shown to be an effective method of dealing with increasing numbers of drug offenders. San Francisco opened its first adult drug court in 1995, after years of planning.
Judge Ina Levin Gyemantwas part of the drug court planning committee, and when she was assigned to Juvenile Court in 1995, she learned that some California Counties were also establishing juvenile drug courts. Judge Gyemant brought together representatives from the District Attorney’s office, the Police Department, Probation, the Sheriff’s Department, Department of Health, and the School District to study the creation of a juvenile drug court for San Francisco. After two years of planning and funded by Federal grants, the Youth Treatment and Education Court took in its first youth in November 1997.
The YTEC organization came together under the leadership of Margot Gibney, who served as Executive Director until 2007. YTEC was unique from most juvenile drug courts in that treatment and therapy for the youth were conducted at the same location, thereby facilitating attendance and ensuring the highest program quality.
In 2000,YTEC partnered with the San Francisco Unified School District to create an on-site alternative high school, YTEC Academy, serving youth full time. The Academy expanded and moved to a new location in 2004. YTEC also implemented a Leadership Program for youth who have “graduated” from drug court, thereby providing critical ongoing support and mentoring.
YTEC changed its name to Youth Treatment and Education Center in 2005 to reflect its growth in programs far beyond those required by the drug court.
Moving forward, in an initiative spearheaded by Judge Pat Mahoney, they went on to open the Principals’ Center Collaborative (“PCC”), an alternative high school. The PCC expands on the model of integrating treatment and education, with the school district in charge of the educational programs and YTEC in charge of delivering treatment and academic support.
In 2009, Davis Ja & Associates conducted an independent study of youth at PCC from 2006-2009 and reported a 55% reduction in crimes against persons. A 2010 study by Davis Ja & Associates found that felony arrests dropped from 55.9% (pre-entry) to 3% (post-entry), and crimes against property and alcohol/drug related arrests declined from 32% (pre-entry) to 3% (post-entry) over the period 2006-2010.
In 2010, PCC became a "Big Picture" School. Big Picture is a revolutionary educational model in which an individualized curriculum is developed for each student around their respective interest(s), thereby ensuring the students’ engagement. The model is real-world learning, project-based, and incorporates community internships. A strong testament to the success of this educational model is that many students choose to stay at the school even after their court-mandated probation.
In 2012, YTEC and PCC moved to a beautiful remodeled school in the Inner Sunset in San Francisco. Under the supervision of Clinical Director Dr. Ernest Brown, the YTEC team brings a wealth of therapeutic experience as hey continue to provide invaluable treatment and academic support to at-risk high school youth, many on probation.
An integral component of the YTEC model continues to be the Leadership Program, funded by The Walther Foundation. Graduates of YTEC who have gone on to complete their university education choose to return to mentor currently enrolled youth. These phenomenal young adults know best the serious challenges our current students are dealing with daily – neighborhood violence, illegal substance use, trauma, family problems, abuse, economic and social injustice – and are in the best position to communicate their message of hope and the success of making positive choices. The real power of the Leadership Program rests in the graduates returning to help those who stand in their former footprints, thereby reinforcing the essential healing power of relationships upon which YTEC is based, and drawing from the past for the benefit of the present and the future.