Returning Citizens, Second Chances

by Jasmin Ramirez on February 20, 2020

Returning Citizens, Second Chances

by Jasmin Ramirez on February 20, 2020

Internships are every college student’s ticket to getting experience needed to spice up the resume and impress potential bosses and grad schools. It was the summer going into my sophomore year of college, and I wasn’t really looking for an internship. My mind was set on finding something to occupy my time because my freshman year, I had ample free time and it kind of made me feel sad and unproductive.

The participants have taught me that it does no one any good to judge a book by its cover. They assured me that if anyone were to judge me based off a test score alone, they are the ones missing out.

- Jasmin Ramirez

One summer day, I received an email that was sent out to all Psychology majors.  It shared an internship opportunity with a local reentry program. The overview said the program counseled people who were previously incarcerated and helped them get back into the workforce. This really called out to me, and within minutes I reached out to the chairman at that time, Dr. Robbins, and asked for contact information.

I contacted the supervisor and expressed interest in being an intern for the program. They asked if I could come in for an interview later that week. My heart sank because I was in Florida for the summer, so there was no way I could make an in-person interview in Philadelphia. They were understanding, and we set up a time for when I returned. Did I mention that I was not going to take my car from Florida to Pennsylvania, so I did not have an established means for transportation to this internship? But I figured that if it was meant to be, it would work out. (Spoiler alert: It did! My internship ended up providing me with a transpass for SEPTA.)

Jasmin Ramirez sitting at a desk working on her laptop.

So everything was settled, we had a plan, until one afternoon—about three days later—the supervisor called me and asked if she could FaceTime me in 30 minutes so that we could have our interview. I was so flustered because I was babysitting my younger siblings and my boyfriend’s youngest sibling at his house. I quickly pulled myself together and saw this as an opportunity to show them how flexible I am, so I told them I could answer in 30 minutes. As soon as we hung up, I told all the kids that they had to be on their best behavior because I was going to be on the phone with someone important. By the time I was done cleaning up, I heard my phone ringing. 

The interview went well. I enjoyed answering the questions, and being in a familiar setting calmed my nerves. But in the background you could hear my younger brother screaming at his video game villain, “DIE SUCKER!” I prayed they couldn’t hear any of that and focused on the interview. 

Happily, I got the position, and that was the beginning of experiencing a huge impact on my work career. Since being here, I have gained insight into what it is like to be incarcerated and put back into “real life.” Every single person has paid the time for their crime, yet share stories of their struggle to obtain a job or housing because people are still holding their past against them. How can you ever expect someone to change if the opportunity for a second chance is never presented to them in the first place? I have heard heartbreaking stories of people that had such rewarding jobs, but were released as soon as their background check came in. 

The people who are enrolled in the reentry program have taught me so much about how I have the power to change my own outlook on life. I am by nature a worry wart and as of late, I have been really overwhelmed with taking the GRE. I get fixated on the idea of not doing well and not looking good enough to graduate schools. 

The participants have taught me that it does no one any good to judge a book by its cover. They assured me that if anyone were to judge me based off a test score alone, they are the ones missing out. They miss out because they overlook all the traits, such as work ethic, determination, and empathy, that I do offer and can’t be seen through an exam score. 

This internship has taught me so much, and I wouldn’t change my experience for anything.