WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – On a night when the White Plains Youth Bureau celebrated reduced youth risk factors in the city, it honored two people who have helped achieve those reductions.
White Plains School Superintendent Timothy Connors and City Court Judge Hon. Jo Ann Friia both received proclamations from city, county and federal officials Wednesday night. Neither one was able to hold all of them at once.
Friia was the first woman to be appointed as a part-time judge in the city in 1993. She was appointed a full-time judge in 1997 and is currently the senior judge in the city courts. County Legislator Benjamin Boykin said two words describe Friia: caring and compassionate.
“That is very, very important when you’re dealing with youth, adults and all trying to put them on the straight and narrow and trying to give them a second chance," he said.
The teary-eyed Friia has lived in White Plains for 40 years and said the honor meant more than any she could get from a judge or bar association.
“When I came to the bench as a woman, first in the city court, I saw things maybe my male colleagues didn’t,” she said.
Friia has helped develop several programs such as the Youth Court. It is a court diversion program where teens between the ages of 13 and 18 act as the prosecution, defense and jury panel to their peers who face charges for low level, non-violent offenses.
Alisa Chaubay, 16, joined the Youth Court his January. The White Plains High School junior thanked Friia for creating the program.
“This program has been great,” said Chaubay, who has acted as a judge and prosecutor. “It has taught me that I have a passion for law and that one day I want to become a judge.”
Connors, the acting school superintendent, highlighted the Youth Bureau’s role in supporting these programs and the community.
“One of the secret weapons we have is the whole youth bureau and all of its representatives,” he said. “We’re here in part to recognize the youth bureau and all that they do.”
The Youth Bureau conducted a survey recently in the White Plains schools, which suggest that students’ attitudes favoring drug use declined from 40.3 percent in 2011 to 33.9 percent in 2013.
Asked if they had drank alcohol in the last 30 days, 72.5 percent of seniors, 37.3 percent of 10th sophomores and 28 percent of eighth graders said yes in 2011. In 2013, 44.7 percent of seniors, 28.9 percent of sophomores and 9.7 percent of eighth graders said yes.