Voices of Hope – Nadieal A.

I saw my father shoot and kill my mother when I was 8 years old. She died in my arms. I ended up pregnant at 16 and had a baby and was arrested at 17. I was sentenced to life in prison before becoming an adult. Certain experiences mark and change you for life.

Prison tries to dehumanize you. But I refused to let them strip me of my decency and respect. I spent the next 25 years in prison leading with respect. I watched, observed, stayed quiet, found routine, and never gave up hope. I got a culinary job and went to church. I tried to be positive rather than negative. I enrolled in school to earn my GED, but at the time, they weren’t permitting “lifers” to get an education. But I didn’t let that stop me. I always wanted to be a lawyer and go to Harvard Law School, so I didn’t give up. I was finally allowed to enroll in school, and I took every class I could take. I earned my Funeral Director certification, completed Business Management coursework, and earned degrees in Paralegal Studies, Criminal Justice, and Seminary, graduating 2nd in my class.

All of this helped me understand that I needed to stop running from myself. I realized that I wasn’t responsible for my mother’s death. Instead, my mother’s death motivated me to help others because I couldn’t help the 8-year-old little girl that needed help.

My case was reevaluated as part of the juvenile resentencing law changes, and my sentence was reduced from life to 40 years and then to 25 years. It was a miracle – I would be going home. God opened doors for me because I never gave up hope. He put me at Operation New Hope as a link in a chain that is building my future.

The Ready4Work program was great and time well spent. The job tips were very helpful. I love my job coach, counselor, and case manager. They are really kind people who genuinely care about me. The entire team showed real concern and didn’t judge me.

It’s only upwards from here. I am working at a great job, saving up to enroll in school. My goal is to practice criminal juvenile law. I want to give people a different outlook. I want to pull people outside a box they have been trapped in. I want to give hope.

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