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Meet Lisa Thurau of Strategies for Youth in Cambridge

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lisa Thurau.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I started Strategies for Youth, after seeing how effective training police can be in reducing arrests for low level juvenile offenses. With a training I offered with an MGH psychiatrist, Dr. Jeff Bostic, to the MBTA Transit Police between 2004-2006, we lowed arrests over 84% and saw much better interactions between police and youth. SFY started in 2010. Today we are working in 18 states implementing four strategies:

1) We train officers in developmentally appropriate, trauma-informed, equitable approaches to policing youth, 2) develop policies and practices for policing youth, 3) present customized versions of the Juvenile Justice Jeopardy game to teach youth how to navigate interactions with peers and police and be aware of the legal implications of their behavior, and 4) conduct original research and publish policy reports on ways to strengthen and equip officers with developmentally appropriate approaches to policing youth.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
No. The biggest struggle is the lack of financial support and investment. Foundations in the Massachusetts area have not been supportive; we have had better luck with visionaries on the west coast who saw the importance of equipping officers to work effectively with youth. Sometimes we also encountered major resistance law enforcement officers who did not want the training but came to like it after they’d gone through it. They are now our biggest boosters.

Strategies for Youth – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
SFY specializes in training officers to use developmentally appropriate, trauma-informed, equitable approaches to policing youth. We are known nationally among law enforcement, youth advocates, and government agencies. Our trainings are now being incorporated into state law enforcement academies and in-service training. SFY’s Juvenile Justice Jeopardy game is also very popular and used in states across the U.S. We are also known for several publications on police/youth issues, I am most proud of how we have gently persuaded law enforcement agencies across the country to take a risk with us and use our training. Now many of them rely on us. We have grown from an organization that started with nothing (I exaggerate; we started with $100 in the bank!) to an organization with a budget of $917,000 in just 7 years. I am pleased that the press, media, US Department of Justice, US Department of Education and many youth advocates treat us as the “go to” organization on this topic.

What sets SFY apart from others is that we don’t focus solely on police or solely on youth; by focusing on both together, we are constantly learning from each and benefiting both.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Changing the world in a way that relieves suffering and makes people both hopeful and able to capitalize on their strengths! Personally, that makes me happy. Professionally, it thrills me when we see changes in officers’ and youths’ perceptions. They tell us all the time, “It’s like a light bulb going off.” When I hear that I smile for the week.

Contact Info:

  • Website:
  • Phone: 617-714-3789
  • Email:
  • Facebook: @StrategiesforYouth
  • Twitter: @strat4youth

Image Credit:
Strategies for Youth

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