Wednesday, August 27, 2014

From Intern Jitters to Justice Reform

By Nicholas Raboya
JPI Intern

It’s my dream to become a law enforcement officer after graduating from college. There is so
much injustice in the world and I really want to be part of the solution in reducing and solving
crime. I’ve worked hard in school so that I can have a career in law enforcement. I’ll be
graduating from Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Md.  in June 2015, so I wanted to
use this summer to intern in the criminal justice field. With the help of my mentor and superstar
attorney, Tara Castillo, I was referred to the Justice Policy Institute. 

To be honest, when I did some research on interning at JPI, I was unsure of whether it would be right for a future in law enforcement. But I’ve been pleasantly surprised by all that I have learned and the great exposure to various experiences related to criminal justice. In addition to attending a meeting at C-Span, hearings on Capitol Hill on voting rights and meeting professionals in the criminal justice field, I’ve participated in staff meetings, and helped with research and other important JPI projects.

JPI took a real gamble on me. Most of the interns at JPI are college and graduate students. As the first high school intern at JPI, I was worried about rising to the challenge. But
from the first day, Zerline Hughes, JPI’s Director of Communications, and her team, had complete confidence in me. That confidence helped me overcome my “what if” jitters. You know, the “What if I’m not smart enough?” thoughts, or the “What if I mess up?” qualms, or questions like “What if I don’t ‘represent’ for the next high schooler?” 

But after a week at JPI, I felt as if I had been a part of the staff all along. I’ve learned through my interning experience that law enforcement is more complex than I thought. JPI’s mission to reduce the need for incarceration and my exposure to JPI’s professionals will influence my thinking and interaction with people and my peers when I become a law enforcement officer. I’ve learned that maybe it’s not as simple as locking up someone who’s committed a crime. The human factor also has to be considered. As I watch the
events play out in Ferguson, Mo., over the Michael Brown shooting, I wonder if the outcome would've been different if the officer responding thought about Michael Brown, the person, before
taking such drastic action. 

Obeying the law is important, but my experience at JPI has helped me to understand that it is possible to enforce the law and preserve rights at the same time. If I had to sum up what I will most remember about my experience as a JPI intern, it will be the inspiring passion and commitment of the organization and its team to its mission. It is rare to be a part of an organization that strives to make the world a better place. My experience at JPI just may help me also play a part in making the world better, too!

Nicholas Raboya served as JPI's summer research and communications intern. He is a senior at Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda, Md. He hopes to attend John Jay School for Criminal Justice next Fall.  

If you'd like to intern in JPI's communications department, email [email protected].

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