Jordyn’s Winning Essay:
At age six I was forced to “grow up”. While sitting on the carpet of multicolored squares in my 1st grade classroom, nervously unravelling the stitching of the rug, and trying to recall the letters of the alphabet, my peers were shouting out the letters in order and reciting the rhymes that marked the end of the school day. Instead of joining them, I worried whether my mom would show up to pick me up from school. Would I have to venture over to the neighbor’s house for dinner? A student assistant appeared at the classroom door holding a dreaded pink summons slip. It read “NOW.” The slip was for me. As I walked down the dreary florescent-lit hallway my stomach was in knots, my face flushed. I had a gut feeling my mother was on her way to jail.
When I was older, I learned my mother had been in jail four times and was once charged with a drug felony of possession of cocaine. That day in the principal’s office, I could not imagine my future; I had no idea my mother’s journey from incarceration to rehabilitation would set me on a path to my future career in the legal field.
When I arrived at the principal’s office, I was asked a series of questions about my mother’s drug usage. I was overwhelmed with emotions. I was confused and humiliated. I recalled the numerous times I had waited on playground for her to pick me up after school, the times she was asleep at four in the afternoon, and the times I went to the neighbor’s because my mom forgot to make dinner. I was told by the school resource officer that my mother was going to jail, and I would be living with my grandparents. These words made me dizzy. However, instead of letting this moment define my mother, myself, or my future, I did something different.
I spent five years in elementary school living with my grandparents. I attribute the fiery passion for learning I possess today to this experience. I filled my free time reading books, learning the multiplication tables, and writing short stories. In just a short year, I evolved from struggling to keep up with my schoolwork and assignments to receiving an invitation to the gifted and talented program, and placement in double advanced courses.
I was a curious child, but my curiosity was far from traditional. While my peers were excited about the magical spirit of the holiday season, I felt ecstatic to leave school early one snowy afternoon to visit my mom in her rehabilitation facility. I vividly remember the humiliation when I was sitting at the lunchroom table in elementary school when one of my friends told the whole table I was leaving early to visit my mom who was a “drug addict.” One of the many obstacles I overcame was explaining my unusual childhood to my peers and teachers. I can still picture the wide-eyed, raised-eyebrow look of confusion and shock that overcame the face of my first-grade best friend when I told her why I lived with my grandparents. Despite these challenges, I would later discover that my mother’s experience as a recovering drug addict propelled my interest in the law and criminal justice reform.
It was not until I was a freshman in high school sitting in the El Paso County Courthouse as a Teen Court volunteer when I discovered my passion for the law. Having first read the police report of the case of one defendant, my mind resorted to forming stereotypes. Before meeting the defendant, I envisioned a disobedient and defiant teenager. Instead, a small, innocent young boy walked through the door. I quickly realized the impact of our stereotypes and biases. I could only imagine the stereotypes that my mother endured. In the years that followed, I worked with many defendants to implement restorative justice principles and to expunge charges from their records.
However, this is not always an option for someone convicted of a felony. Many people convicted of drug felonies endure agonizing effects years later. They may be unable to vote, volunteer, secure a financially stable career. Worst of all, they can lose their children. With a law school education, I will be well equipped with the tools to defend those who are marginalized and placed into subservience by the criminal justice system.
Today, my mother has been sober for ten years and is an important mentor to me. Her resilience has inspired me, her mistakes have taught me many lessons, and best of all, her experience has shaped who I am today and my future career as an attorney. Through my legal studies, I will be able to call into question the actions of authority figures, ensure no child must unjustly visit their mother in rehab during the holidays, and reform the criminal justice system that has fought to oppress and marginalize those who need support. As someone who was raised by a single mother who has had difficulty obtaining a career due to her felony, this scholarship would greatly help me achieve my goal of becoming a criminal defense attorney.