It has been a month since I wrote a blog post. You might assume I have had little to say but the real reason is – I’ve almost had too much to say. And it is in those moments that sometimes I need to be quiet and really reflect on all that is going on around me, all I am creating and responsible for, and all that I need to do to keep peace and forward movement in my life.
This is my busy season for work – lots of travel and conferences. In case I haven’t said it in this blog – I love my job. I love the industry I work for and I love the people I have met in close to 20 years working in agriculture. Thirteen-ish years ago when my family was thrust into the criminal justice world – kicking and screaming and through no fault of our own – I was still a young pup in my career. And while I had met many amazing colleagues and managers and mentors, I did not have the “street cred” back then to be vocal about these issues and still operate in an industry that is completely unrelated. But to be honest, I was too ashamed to be anyway. I hid what was happening to my family and my amazing mother for several years in my professional circles.
Launching the scholarship program on Ava’s 1st birthday in 2010 was my “coming out” party. It was liberating and exciting and helped me redirect my anger and sadness and more than likely depression (I didn’t seek therapy for another couple of years) toward something positive and hopefully life-changing for our kids. But justice reform wasn’t sexy then. And I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin then either.
Fast forward to 2018. I have continued to build a career in agriculture and along the way I have opened some eyes to the plight of families of the incarcerated as well as to the injustice of the system itself. We have also helped dozens of kids on their journey to college. This year I was part of a game-changing leadership development program called Leading with Conviction convened by JustLeadershipUSA. The core principle of this organization is that those closest to the problem are closest to the solution. And they are investing in the leadership capacity of justice involved people, like myself, to advocate for change across the country.
In this process I have found my people. I have also found myself and found my voice in this space. Vulnerability is a beautiful thing and I feel in a lot of ways that I have been stripped naked and put back together again – with a more open mind, and softer and more forgiving heart, a body armor that can take the tough days and a network unrivaled anywhere.
Everywhere I have gone in my life I have tried to create family – to create community. Perhaps it’s because I was an only child or from a small town or because I grew up knowing that family is everything. Another gift from mom. This new family has helped me heal and grow and thrive in ways I never knew were possible.
With a full and grateful heart and, as always, hope for the future –
Founder, Ava’s Grace Scholarship Program
Mom – CEO – Justice Warrior