"This life has been a whirlwind of academic, professional, emotional, and spiritual growth. However, I couldn’t be more fulfilled."
- Alyssa T.
The first college graduation I ever attended was inside of San Quentin Prison. It was for incarcerated men, and my dad was the valedictorian. In his speech, he said, “What makes students like us stand different from others is our strength to endure in the face of adversity.” It’s a line that has stuck with me – it connects to my own education and commitment to my community. Receiving an education is key to reaching my goal – ensuring that families impacted by incarceration receive the support needed to thrive. I would be honored to receive the support of the Foundation For Your Future Scholarship.
My dad left when I was 9-years-old. During his absence, I suffered emotional, physical, and sexual abuse because of my mother’s alcoholism. This was exacerbated when I turned 15 and my mother kicked me out of our home, resulting in my homelessness. At 16, I became pregnant from a sexual assault. When my life drastically changed with my pregnancy, I dropped out of high school. However, I never gave up on my dreams; I obtained a GED and developed a plan to attend college.
"Listening to his speech and watching him hold his diploma while he was incarcerated showed me that anything is possible."
- Alyssa T.
Before UCSC, I attended community college while working full time and raising my son as a single mom. I also independently managed a household. Truthfully, it was challenging, yet I developed critical skills and have pushed myself to keep pursuing my education. Lately, I have been reflecting on this journey and the impact that my father’s incarceration and education has had on me.
My experiences have helped me develop a passion for improving the lives of system-impacted families. My plan is to earn a law degree and use my firsthand knowledge of the effects of the criminal justice system to promote change. I am part of the community impacted by incarceration and my community matters to me. They are what drives me to be successful in my career and my personal life, simply because I desire to make a difference.
Now, I’m volunteering in prisons and jails and working with others impacted by incarceration, raising awareness of how incarceration shatters families. I’ve listened to heart-wrenching stories of forceful separation by the police and long bus rides only to learn visits were canceled. I’ve heard from those who were absent when children were born or, even more tragically, when children died. I’ve listened to hopes for reunification. People impacted by incarceration yearn for an opportunity to discuss this impact as well as find solutions for healing. I’ve started to tackle this issue with Walls to Bridges.
The project is focused on fostering family communication during and after incarceration through confidential dialogues using restorative justice principles and practices. The project seeks to mitigate the isolation and stigma created by familial incarceration. Though this project is difficult, I am committed to it. It matters to me. I have been working on it since February 2019. In this time, I have secured some funding, hired volunteers, developed the curriculum and policies for the program, and started recruitment for participants. I’m breaking boundaries and am motivated now more than ever.
At UCSC, I’m pursuing a double major in Legal Studies and Philosophy. I’m hungry to learn and expand my capacity to think critically and serve others. I’m seeking opportunities to develop the intellectual and policy framework I need to truly make a difference. Support from the Foundation For Your Future Scholarship will assist me in completing my undergraduate education and applying to law school.
This life has been a whirlwind of academic, professional, emotional, and spiritual growth. However, I couldn’t be more fulfilled. I’m the first in my family to attend a traditional four-year institution. My dad spent seven years obtaining an associate degree from the Prison University Project. He modeled for me the true meaning of perseverance. Numerous times, he was unexpectedly transferred to another prison, losing all of a semester’s credits and having to start over. Yet he remained dedicated to accomplishing his goals, just as I have been. When I attended his graduation, I had yet to start community college. Listening to his speech and watching him hold his diploma while he was incarcerated showed me that anything is possible.
Not only is my dad my biggest role model, but his statement from his valedictorian speech continues to motivate me. By demonstrating that I can excel in college and remain active in my community despite numerous obstacles present in my life, I’ve proven that I too have the strength to endure in the face of adversity. I’ve proven that I care about others who face incredible challenges and that I am determined to effectively serve them. I’m excited to pursue a legal education and I would be honored to receive support from the Foundation For Your Future Scholarship. The second college graduation I will attend will be my own. Now that my dad is home, it will be his turn to watch me walk across the stage.
The second college graduation I will attend will be my own. Now that my dad is home, it will be his turn to watch me walk across the stage. Thank you for your consideration.
- Alyssa T.