Finalist | Dayna Mathew
IES Abroad Program: London - Summer Internship
College / University: Loyola University Chicago, Class of 2019
Major: Forensic Science & Criminal Justice
Hometown: Owensboro, Kentucky
“Look where I’m going, not where I’ve been.” That is a quote that was plastered along the walls of Working Chance, a London based recruitment consultancy for women ex-offenders. That is the mentality Jocelyn Hillman, the CEO, had when she founded the organization at her kitchen table in 2009. That is the passion I discovered when I had the opportunity to intern there the summer of 2017.
My first day started with drowning in my own privilege. I knew the organization chose candidates—the ex-offenders—and aided them in gaining employment, but I did not expect more than half of the agency to also be ex-convicts. It was chuckle-worthy at the time; the office was teeming with what society would label “outsiders”, yet, I was the only one. It was in that moment that I recognized my own privilege. I, at 19, was receiving a college education at a fairly prestigious school in the States, and when I applied, I was accepted without a doubt. I could travel across the pond to intern in a different country, and no one batted an eye. I could apply to any job I wanted, and presuming I had the right qualifications, I wouldn’t be overlooked. The candidates that came into Working Chance, and most of the people that worked there, they didn’t have that privilege. And that, to me, just seemed… unjust. Thus, I became more knowledgeable about my own prejudice and also became a champion for social justice. I vowed to fully immerse myself in this opportunity and change others’ mindsets about “criminals”. I began the MORE campaign.
I claimed that our non-profit was more than an average recruitment agency, and the staff was so receptive to the idea that it became the pitch for the new corporate membership program. I stated that Working Chance is not just an organization that helps women ex-offenders get jobs. Working Chance destroys the stigmas of ‘criminal’ and ‘offender’, and redefines those words completely, as the women that go through our program become MORE: more confident, capable, responsible, and motivated. Working Chance embodies the idea of second chances because every person, no matter what they’ve done or what they’ve gone through, deserves an opportunity to become MORE and believe that they are MORE: more than a conviction, more than a circumstance, more than a label. Working Chance revolutionizes the way people see justice because punishing someone twice—once with incarceration, once with the label—that isn’t justice.
Seeing our candidates, meeting them and getting to know them, became a priority of mine, so I started that campaign. I wanted to inspire others to see these women as more, but I would also have to inspire the candidates to believe that they, themselves, are more than their convictions. That, sometimes, is the biggest battle; prison takes away your freedom and can also take away your sense of self. That is why one of Working Chance’s fundamental goals is to raise the self-confidence of the women we see, whether that is through workshops, employability events, or one to one appointments. I’m proud to say I raised the confidence of at least 20 women while I was an intern at Working Chance.
Inspiring these people—both employees and candidates—cultivated my passion. I initially intended to get an internship in a law firm or within a barrister’s office in London; becoming an attorney was and still is my dream. But before my experience abroad at Working Chance, I didn’t have an answer for why that was. Now I know. It’s to be the difference in restorative and social justice. I’m not just going to change mindsets about “criminals”; I’m going to get rid of the stigma and ensure that these women never feel, as one candidate described, “worthless” or “without hope” ever again.
Since returning to the U.S., I’ve continued my studies at Loyola in forensic science and criminal justice. I continue to follow up on my interest regarding ex-offenders and the justice system by taking as many classes as I can regarding those subjects. I shadow defense attorneys and meet with their clients during school breaks, and I try to watch cases regularly at the courthouse while I attend school- both so I can better learn how to defend “criminals” when I become an attorney. I am an active member of Alpha Phi Sigma, the criminal justice honor society, and the Criminal Justice Organization at my university; we participate in many community service projects regarding ex-offenders. The most notable of those projects is The Summit of Hope, where we aided ex-offenders in the U.S. in getting jobs; I served as a volunteer last year, but hopefully will co-facilitate Loyola’s involvement this year. I also serve as a defense attorney for the Loyola Mock Trial team, where I defend a client who has been accused of attempted murder. Hopefully, one day I’ll be defending real “criminals” and be able to convince others that they’re actually not criminals at all. After all, one should “look where [they’re] going, not where [they’ve] been”.
Feeling inspired? Meet all of our 2017 Global Citizen of the Year Finalists and Winner, and learn more about this Award