Rev. Rubén S. Austria is the Founder and Executive Director of Community Connections for Youth, a Bronx-based non-profit organization dedicated to empowering grassroots faith and neighborhood organizations to develop effective community-driven alternative to incarceration programs for youth. CCFY's work focuses on building community capacity for juvenile justice reform by training neighborhood organizations in effective practice with court-involved youth, and facilitating system-community partnerships that reduce reliance on incarceration.
Rev. Austria's work with court-involved youth was shaped by his experience at Urban Youth Alliance, where he started and ran the BronxConnect program, the first local community-driven juvenile alternative-to-incarceration for court-involved youth in the Bronx. Starting on a shoestring budget in 1998, he labored for ten years to develop the initiative into a million dollar program diverting more than 200 youth annually from incarceration, with an 84 percent success rate in keeping young people from re-offending.
Rev. Austria specializes in providing training and technical assistance for government agencies, non-profit organizations, and grassroots faith and community-based organizations interested in improving their impact with adjudicated and at-risk youth. He is the author of CCFY's Alternative to Incarceration (ATI) Training Institute, a comprehensive 3-Day course on developing effective community-based programs to serve youth. He has conducted workshops and seminars for the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), the federal Department of Labor (DOL), the Annie E. Casey Foundation's Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI), Public/Private Ventures (P/PV), the Cook County (Chicago) Department of Probation, and the Urban Youth Workers Institute (UYWI). Locally he has trained and conducted workshops for the NYC Department of Probation, the NYC Department of Education, the Mentoring Partnership of New York, World Vision, and other non-profit organizations and faith-based organizations in New York City. He has guest lectured at Alliance Theological Seminary, Columbia University, Cornell University, New York University, New York Theological Seminary, Nyack College, and Yale University. He preaches and teaches at various churches throughout the tri-state area, and speaks to incarcerated youth on a regular basis.
His work with youth has earned him acclaim in the youth services and juvenile justice field. In 2007 he was awarded a prestigious Soros Justice Fellowship by the Open Society Institute to advocate for the redirection of youth incarceration funds to community-based alternatives to incarceration. As a fellow with the W. Haywood Burns Institute, he developed strategies to reduce racial disparities in the juvenile justice system through partnerships between public agencies and community-based organizations. He received the Mentoring Award from the National Mentoring Partnership in 2002, and the Esther House Prison Ministries Award in 2004. In 2005 he was invited to the White House in honor of his work with young people. In 2007 he was invited to serve on the New York State Task Force on Probation. He sits on the national Advisory Board of the Community Justice Network for Youth, and the Steering Committee of the New York City Juvenile Justice Coalition. He is a founding member of the New York City Task Force on Racial Disparity in the Juvenile Justice System and served on New York City's Disproportionate Minority Confinement (DMC) working group.
Rev. Austria earned both his B.S. in Psychology in 1996, and his M.A. in Southeast Asian Studies in 2002, from Cornell University. He completed the Institute for Non-Profit Management at Columbia University Business School's Executive Education program. He is also completed training from Fordham University Graduate School of Social Services and Big Brothers Big Sisters of NYC to become a Certified Mentoring Program Supervisor. In 2004, he was selected as a Research Fellow by the Robert Bowne Foundation to conduct qualitative research on the youth development and juvenile justice. His article: "Towards a movement: uniting direct service providers and community organizers for juvenile justice reform" was published in the Spring 2006 edition of the journal Afterschool Matters.
Born and raised in New York City, Rev. Austria currently resides in the Mott Haven Section of the Bronx. Rev. Austria was ordained as a minister in 2010 at the Promised Land Evangelical Covenant Church. In his spare time he enjoys playing jazz and bossa nova guitar in the family band Mambola with his siblings.