135 Years, 135 Stories title image
Her Light at the End of the Tunnel

JASMIN, Massachusetts

I am strong because I’ve been weak.
I am fearless because I’ve been afraid.
I am wise because I’ve been foolish.

I was born out of wedlock to a pair of inexperienced teenage parents, who made choices that led to different lifestyles. The choice that my father made had led him to prison which left my mother no choice but to do what she have to do as the only parent. This meant my mother would be absent most of the time so I was a latchkey child. Although my mother tried her best, she was a single parent so I was left to make my own decisions at an early age. The lifestyles that my parents had affected my up-bringing, which caused the struggles I’ve been through and now defines who I am today. But unfortunately this is a more common issue everywhere.

As a child I have struggled, made some mistakes, but learned from them with the help of the Robert F. Kennedy Children’s Action Corps Detention Diversion Advocacy Project (DDAP) program. When I was a youth I got into an altercation with another young lady that landed both of us in front of a judge. At that very moment I saw the two different paths flash before my eyes when the judge offered a second option instead of subjecting me to the juvenile system. Then I realized that this was my turning point, I was given a second chance.

After I was qualified for the program I then was introduced to my youth advocate Ms. Deborah. At first I must admit when I met her I was unsure of her because she was always so energetic but as I got to know her, she was like a mentor to me. She directed me down the right path. She’s not someone who just gets the job done…she goes above and beyond. For example, when I got into my altercation, Ms. Deborah asked for mediation between the girl and I. Now at the time I didn’t know what difference it would have made until I was later involved with a situation in which that one decision Ms. Deborah had made saved me. Till this day, I thank Ms. Deborah because that mediation had prevented the escalation and future altercations with the girl or her friends.

Later DDAP then led me to the Youth Leadership program for girls, which allowed me the opportunity to work with other girls on different projects and earn a stipend. This program has helped me develop social skills as well as providing me with confidence because it allowed me to gain some skills and make some money. Eventually, my case got dismissed and Judge Harris said to me, “The next time I see you in this court room it better be because you are working or interning here.” I’m proud to say I went back to intern for him.

As I transitioned into high school I was better prepared because of the DDAP program. As a result I was a member of the National Honor Society and was accepted to five colleges. When I think of this program I think of hope and support because that is exactly what I have received which has helped me get to the point I am today. But I am happy to be here as proof to show that with the proper program such as DDAP, you can get a second chance in life. What is great about this program is as you can see not only has it helped me as a youth but; this program has followed me into my adulthood and has continued to be helpful.

Now I am a staff member of RFKCAC, I am enrolled in school, and I have a handsome two-year old boy. As a member of the RFK staff, I see a lot of myself in the girls plus I have shared similar experiences so I can empathize with their pain. This gives me the advantage of being able to provide that same feeling of assurance that I received from the RFK staff at that age. My future goal is to become a Probation Officer and I am currently working to achieve this goal by going to school part time and gaining experience in that field with RFK. If I would recommend any alternative it would be the DDAP program. It has done justice for me and I hope this program continues to do this same for future students like me. My life was a dark tunnel and the DDAP program was the light at the end of the tunnel.