As a young child who has been affected by the incarceration system, PCC student Jasmin Lopez found her passion of helping those in similar situations through school involvement. Being in many different programs and clubs that reach out to people affected by prison impaction gave her the opportunity to learn how to support and give back to her community.

Lopez grew up in a single parent household. Having her father incarcerated for her entire life and a brother who was wrongly convicted has shaped her childhood into a certain manner that she does not fully understand. As a first generation student, she did not have guidance throughout her educational life. Lopez had to lie to teachers about why her father was not present. Even then, her mother had to work and could not attend school meetings. Lopez has now identified as system impacted and has a passion to assist others in similar situations through PCC.

“I feel like it’s because of our skin color, where we grew up, who our relatives were, that means what system impacted is,” said Lopez. “Like the system is not built for you and coming to school has made me realize being a part of this system has made me who I am and help navigate through this because I deserve it.”

Puente is a program that helps Latinx students get a degree and transfer to four-year universities by providing leaders and mentors to guide them in their educational journey. The program was Lopez’s first opportunity that showed a sense of family and made her aware of who she really is as a person who identifies as Chicana.

She was then introduced to the program Community Overcoming Recidivism through Education (CORE) and the club Formally Incarcerated Radical Scholars Team (FIRST), which were founded by Dr. Anthony Francoso with the help of student Laura Hayes and former student Gabriela Vaquerano, to support those who are affected by incarceration.

Through these programs, she has been on the board as an ally by arranging events like writing letters to those in prison, visiting juvenile halls and correctional facilities to host resource events that will provide guidance after prison, and trying to create an alternative team in North East LA to train those on how to build a plan of action without a police force being involved.

“I want to have that voice for the marginalized, ‘cause I was there once,” said Lopez. “I think finding my voice became a crucial part of being an activist for social justice and becoming involved with the Office of Student Life and navigating through fear that gets so much in our way.”

Lopez is vocal about opening up conversations that will help others become more conscious that marginalized individuals do matter, and that there are resources and support systems to improve their way of living. She is grateful to Francoso, Hayes and Vaquerano who fought for these programs and clubs to be part of PCC’s institution in order to help those who are affected by incarceration.

“Mistakes shouldn’t define who you are,” said Lopez. “Everyone deserves that opportunity to come back to see who they are as their own identities and sometimes people don’t get to explore that.”

Despite growing up with family members who are impacted, her situation has shaped her to become more resilient. It allowed her to get to where she is by helping others, especially the youth, through empowering them and giving them hope for a better outcome, no matter their beginnings.

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