Kelly taps Topeka High senior for state juvenile justice group

Topeka Capital-Journal, Dec. 18, 2020 – Read the original story

Topeka High senior Chrishayla Adams said she practically screamed when she heard how much Gov. Laura Kelly wanted her to serve on a statewide board.

Kelly — impressed with Adams’ track record of excellence as statewide student president of the Jobs for America’s Graduates Kansas program — had earlier invited Adams to visit with her, and during their conversation, Adams mentioned that she eventually wants to give back to the community as a criminal justice lawyer.

“There are a lot of underserved people in the community who don’t have good representation, so I want to help the community in that way,” Adams remembered telling the governor, who is a member of JAG’s national board.

The governor liked what she had to say, and she asked Adams if she would be interested in serving on a statewide board to address juvenile justice. After filling out the necessary paperwork and application, Adams said she went to an interview, where officials told her she would be a shoe-in for Kelly’s appointment.

That is when Adams said she screamed.

With Kelly’s appointment, Adams will now serve a four-year term on the Kansas Advisory Group on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, which advocates for and advises lawmakers on the best interests of children in Kansas’ juvenile justice system. The group’s size varies between 20 and 33 members, but at least a fifth of the group’s members are required to be under the age of 24.

As the state student president of JAG-K, Adams said, she hopes to bring a unique perspective to the group.

“I think I can bring insight,” she said. “People from JAG come from all different backgrounds. I’ve seen people in the system. I want to prevent that and help people who have been in the system, because for some of them, that’s the only route they’ve got, and that’s the only thing they can ever be.”

Adams said that despite their mistakes, most children in the justice system simply need more encouragement and support from their communities.

“If we can put that love in them and encourage them that they can do more, then that can make a big difference in their life,” she said.

Adams’ appointment from Kelly marks another feather in the senior’s cap after earlier in December winning a national JAG competition for public speaking, in which Adams gave an overview of how JAG has changed her life.

After graduating next May, Adams said, she will likely attend the University of Kansas.