March 14, 2011

I am Sam’s mom and we were in your DUI class on Saturday.

If you asked me one word to express how I was feeling when I arrived at the class on Saturday I would have said, “Resentful.” I never liked to sit in classes, listen to lectures, take exams or do my excel homework, and my only thoughts were that now all this will be repeated in adult life, while I will also be blamed for the bad upbringing of the child. Resentful that I had to give up my Saturday to attend a class for something I didn’t do, resentful that I had to spend 5 hours with a kid who didn’t appreciate what I was doing for him, resentful that I was missing my other son’s baseball game and resentful for a whole pile of things. And it didn’t get much better when I had to try to think of 2 great things about my kid who I had just spent the car ride arguing with.

Now fast forward 5 hours and ask me the same question and I’d have to say, "Grateful." I am so grateful for you and what you are doing for these kids and to the County for believing in your program. I am grateful to Tom and Sue Hunt-LeMay for sharing their heartbreaking tragic story with us – for how powerful it is to see grief like that and even for the opportunity for Sam to see how it affected me and the other people in the room. Grateful that they would take the time to share their loss with people to try to prevent what happened to them from happening to the parents in that room. Grateful that I had kids to argue with and to not appreciate me and to miss their baseball games. I am grateful to Kayla for sharing her story and showing that the gorgeous, smart, girl-next-door can have problems with drugs and alcohol too and for sharing that life can be good sober. Grateful for the conversations after the class and for the conversations that I'm sure are coming after the three teen counseling sessions this week. In some crazy way I'm even grateful that Sam got in trouble so that he had to go to that class. THANK YOU!

Thank you for making such an impression on me. I truly appreciate what you’re doing and how you’re doing it. You are doing a great thing for the kids in our county and you are making a difference in our community.

Sincerely, Sam's mom

November 2011

I love watching Don interact with the kids. He has a wonderful gift of being able to communicate with them completely honestly, but without and condescension. — Parent of student volunteer

Don is someone that I can call or email anytime of the day to address an issue about our youth in Marin and he is always available to provide advice and assistance. His expertise and knowledge on guiding our at-risk youth in Marin is one that is critical to the well-being of our community. — Parent of student referred to program.

I value many things about Don. He puts so much heart into his work with Youth Court and matches his heart with hard work. As a leader, he actually walks what he talks. He shows incredible compassion for the youth, parents, volunteers and staff involved in the Youth Court. He has an openness and creativity that leads to great out of the box but practical thinking that he then puts into action. He sees the best in people and is quick to assess what skills people (volunteers, youth, staff, parents) can bring to the program and then encourages their participation. He is open to constructive criticism and values at all costs the program being effective. Don has a powerful and relaxed way of taking charge that sets the stage for very effective and genuine collaboration across generations. He is a lot of fun to work with, incredibly supportive, compassionate and fun to be around. He shares himself genuinely with both youth and adults, one of the reasons why I think youth are so comfortable around him. He’s a great story-teller and public speaker and thinks quickly on his feet. I most admire that Don puts himself out there wholeheartedly to help guide youth and the community to a closer, safer, healthier, happier place. I don’t think the Marin County Youth Court would be as successful as it is today without Don’s leadership.

I am at awe each session with the director, Don Carney, as he has been able to keep this program afloat and give these teens an alternative to probation or their file not being sent to the District Attorney's office.

As a college intern who is doing casework with Youth Court students I get training and hands on experience in my future career of Social Work. Don and Jessica have allowed me to shadow them.

My fieldwork with Don started in Jan. 2011 and in May my semester ended but I continued through the summer. Don has allowed me to accompany him to other events related to Marin Youth Court such as "Law Day," "California Youth Court Summit 2011" this summer, "Peer Summit" and other opportunities as he shares his wealth of knowledge.

Don is a caring and committed person. I have observed this for myself as a receiver of his goodness and sharing spirit. He is professional and gets the job done. His rapport with the teens and parents is great. He is truly getting the message out to the masses. He is giving of his time and efforts for this program. His reward is to not have to go to another young person's funeral because of any drugs or alcohol in their life.

July 16, 2009


Big thanks, you have done wonders for the youth court and the young people participating—and with scarce resources. My hat is off to you. Keep up the great work.

Joe Spaeth, Marin County Public Defender

January 07, 2011

To: Don Carney

First off, I found your presentation really inspiring. It was real, the way you addressed us students honestly without any preaching or sugar-coating; instead you got to the heart of why kids do drugs, and what happens when this alternate reality so naturally becomes bigger than real life. Thanks for that.

What's really killing Marin teenagers is apathy, and all the condescending sob-sessions the innocent and lost alike are forced to sit through in school only ever justify this cancerous indifference with a universal "too-cool-for-school" attitude. But you didn't play into any of the stereotypes inadvertently favored by teachers—dangerous rebels drink, clean-cut squares abstain, perverted nursery-rhyme nonsense like that.

Also, I really loved your concept of a "designated thinker", that really got me going, especially in reference to Marin where kids are literally so thoughtlessly entitled that they look at boredom and solitude as the ultimate tragedies, and where one gets so used to externalizing and re-wiring themselves at school that on the weekend, the thought of being starkly alone with yourself (not to mention your actual problems) is too exhausting to bear without a buzz. That is Marin kids' problem: having been filtered through lifelong affluence and materialism (be it actually our own or that of our more fortunate peers), our sense of reality has been skewed, our world so delicately uniformed, literally a huge glass house, and that the slightest flaw or variation devastates our tiny world. So when we can't come to terms with reality, we use booze to build a new one.

Long story short, I was enthralled by your unusually perceptive approach to teen drug use and a deeper sense of restorative justice, and I would definitely be interested in volunteering for the Marin youth court. Your pamphlet says to contact this email, so please let me know what I have to do in order to get involved with the youth court as soon as possible!

Thanks again,

Brittany Newell

Tamiscal High School 11th grader

January 6, 2011

Dear Don,

Congratulations on receiving the Excellence in Innovation award today at Heart of Marin Awards Ceremony. We are so fortunate to have Marin County Youth Court serving our youth and their families in our community. Don, you have worked so hard for so many years to create such a powerful program. This recognition by the non-profit community was so well deserved!

Cheryl Paddack

Executive Director, Novato Youth Center

January 11, 2011


Congratulations to you and your team for receiving the "Heart of Marin Award for Excellence in Innovation." Youth Court is truly a unique approach to juvenile justice that gives young people a second chance, but also demonstrates the importance of the legal process in our democracy in insuring that the rights of defendants are protected and justice is fairly and impartially rendered. Thank you for your leadership and vision in making this program a reality. It was a joy to be present at the presentation luncheon. (Don your comments were right on.) Best wishes as you continue this project. Be assured of my continued interest and support.

Mary Jane Burke, Marin County Superintendent of Schools

May 13, 2011


Last night's training left me feeling so elated and proud. Proud of myself. Proud of this program. Proud of the volunteers. Proud of the Marin community. Needless to say, it went great. They were a very strong group of volunteers, and the smaller group size allowed for more group discussion, sharing of personal stories and concerns, and very useful Q & A.

But, what this e-mail is really about is thanking you. Thank you so much for giving me the opportunity to be part of the Youth Court program. You are so open to my participation and have given me much needed space to develop and grow as a person and professional in ways that I've been dreaming about. The last time I personally identified a mentor for myself was about ten years ago when I worked in advertising of all places! I hope to be as good as you are at doing what you do in whatever I do. Thank you for the inspiration and teaching. Each volunteer last night expressed incredible admiration and gratitude for you, for your way of being in the world and how you run this program. Steve even called you "magical." How about that!

Don, thank you so much. I feel so lucky to be a part of this.

Jessica Kemp, LSW

Youth Court Coordinator

I just wanted to let you both know how moved and impressed I was with Saturday's presentation. The information and way Don addressed the teens made the day invaluable as well as informative. The impact of actually meeting and hearing directly from Alex's parents about his tragic death really made a strong and powerful statement. I was in tears most of the weekend their rawness and devastation really was available for us all to be part of. What an important message they bring to us all.

Parent of 16 year old client

November 04, 2011

Dear Don:

Many thanks for an absolutely amazing session this morning with the adults. I didn’t get a chance to thank you personally for the powerful work you do with the Youth Court and your ongoing advocacy for students and families. The video was very powerful, and all the information shared by you, Harry, and Mark made a lasting impression on all of us. We are so fortunate to have youth advocates like you.

Anna L. Pilloton,

College of Marin

Outreach and School Relations Coordinator

November 2011

I am going to keep this short and simple. I have never met anyone like Don. Watching him instruct the weekend DUI course is amazing. His passion, and dedication are truly amazing, and it also is contagious. I now too, am very passionate about this cause, and Don has a big part in this. The parents and the kids also respond very well to Don. He truly is a unique person, and a perfect fit for Youth Court.

Judge R. Chernus, Marin County Superior Court

November 14, 2011

Don and Jessica,

I just wanted to let you both know how moved and impressed I was with Saturday's presentation. The information and way Don addressed the teens made the day invaluable as well as informative. The impact of actually meeting and hearing directly from Alex's parents about his tragic death really made a strong and powerful statement. I was in tears most of the weekend their rawness and devastation really was available for us all to be part of. What an important message they bring to us all.

Parent of 16 year old client

November 14, 2011


I am writing to give you some feedback of our Restorative Justice Program that has been newly implemented at Hamilton.

Since this is my first Peer Court experience, I am finding it to be quite a positive opportunity. Not only have the students bought in to what we are doing, but they are beginning to believe that punitive punishments do not positively alter behavior at schools.

You have been very patient and understanding of the student population at Hamilton and the whole process has been informative, constructive and malleable. As a school, I see this program as one that provides us with many alternatives to suspension, saving ADA, and a positive impact on the community.

As the program progresses and grows, I see this as something that all students at Hamilton will be able to identify as a part of our school culture and a way of helping students making more correct and positive choices in and out of school on a daily basis.

Thanks for what you have brought to us.

Jeff Kubiak,

Dean of Students

Hamilton Middle School

Novato Unified School District

March 15, 2013

I am so glad that Parker is working with Don. He is an amazing man.

Trudie Scott,

History Teacher,

Saint Marks School

June 13, 2013


Thanks for coming to our Board Budget hearings last week. I’m not sure if you heard how well the Board received the excellent work that you have been spearheading, but I think there is a very real likelihood that the County will become more involved in funding your efforts.

Please feel free to check in with David Escobar and me as you proceed. Most importantly, congratulations on the meaningful and successful program you have been developing (all of your life).

Steve Kinsey, Marin County Supervisor

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