Calabasas, CA | 18
2016 Award Recipient
As the child of Jewish-Iranian parents who came to the United States to pursue religious freedom and opportunity, Michael Mottahedeh was taught to believe strongly in everyone’s right to justice and equality. Michael discovered Teen Court in ninth grade and it became his passion shortly after. Teen Court is a community outreach program run by the Los Angeles Superior Court that works to reduce juvenile delinquency rates and recidivism. Through Teen Court, minors suspected of committing a crime are diverted from the traditional justice system and are given the opportunity to present their case to a jury of their peers. If found guilty, youth offenders can wipe their records clean by completing a sentence determined by students who volunteer as jurors, clerks and bailiffs. When Michael first joined the Taft Charter High School Teen Court chapter, fewer than 25 students attended the monthly sessions. In four years, he created social media campaigns, hosted club meetings, coordinated field trips, and organized fundraisers. Michael is now President of Taft Teen Court and has grown attendance to an average of 140 students per session. He believes that this program has proved to be an effective solution to mass incarceration, boasting a 90% success rate at keeping minors out of the formal Juvenile Justice System. Michael’s work empowers at-risk teens to take charge of their futures, while simultaneously providing more privileged teens with opportunities to partner with peers who would otherwise remain invisible to them.