For 19 years the Ontario County Youth Court has been working hand in hand with the local courts and legal system handling criminal matters for those accused of youthful offenders.

CANANDAIGUA — To be tried by jury of your peers — for the Ontario County Youth Court, that’s exactly its function.

On Wednesday night the Youth Court held its induction ceremony in which it welcomed 21 new members and said thank-you to the 21 outgoing members. The incoming members spent 10 weeks going through training.

Youth court sees a variety of actual criminal court cases by youths between the age of 10 and 17. Some of the crimes youth court tries are petit larceny, pulling fire alarms, bullying, marijuana possession and harassment.

“Youth court taught me that there's a need for youth to involved,” said Kenneth DeLand, who will be attending St. John Fisher College to pursue a career in the legal profession. “ It’s served to be a inspiration for my future.”

For 19 years the Ontario County Youth Court has been working hand in hand with the local courts and legal system handling criminal matters for youths accused of crimes. Every year it must refill the ranks of graduating seniors with a new round of students who will serve in every role of the legal process: judge, prosecution, defense, bailiff and clerks. After undergoing 10 weeks of training, 21 members fill the vacancies being left by the outgoing seniors.

The Youth Court tries between 50 and 60 cases per year, and next year 17-year-olds will be offered the opportunity for youth court.

The greatest benefit of being tried in youth court is that if the accused fulfills their sentence and requirements set by the court, their criminal record is expunged. If they fail to meet the requirements the case is returned back to the referring agency, like a judge or probation.

It's proven quite successful for those who are prosecuted through the system.

“Eighty two percent of the students that come through youth court are not charged criminally again,” said Ontario County Youth Court Director Yvonne Vazquez. “Everyone deserves a second chance, and ultimately we want them to be restored back to society; kids listen to kids.”

According to Brandon Bryant, Ontario County Youth Court coordinator, the impact is life-changing — both for those who prosecute and for those who are accused of crimes.

“Nine out of ten times the student doesn’t re-offend,” said Bryant. “Going in front of your peers in a formal environment is the difference, and our approach is restorative.”

The program is funded by the Feinbloom Support Foundation, Ontario County Probation Department, Ontario County Youth Bureau, United Way of Ontario County, and St. John's Episcopal Church in Canandaigua.

The new members: Elizabeth Anania, Nathan Aparo, Gabe Arthur, Emma Barnes, Alexi Farnes, Aspen Farnes, Troy Foster, Catie Ginther, Liam Houle, Taylor Lyon, Giana Milazzo, Robert Miller, Samaya Morse, Colin Nicholson, Emily Nicholson, Ava Pickering, Nick Plummer, Geo Smith, Carly Stevens, Emmanuel Vazquez, Rohan Vyas.

Senior members: Jacob Abel, Marcos De la Osa Cruz, Kenneth DeLand, Grace Doyle, Alexi Gallant, Jonathan Granger, Noah Howard, Casidy Ingo, Macy Kisner, Autumn Kunes, Sarah Lahr, Hannah Lochner, Elizabeth Mackzynski, Lacey Maloney, Madison Montalvo, Finn Morrison, Nicole Parkison, Tanner Senglaub, Olivia Shaffer, Ema Shanks, Ryan Smith.