Much of my work for the Criminal Justice Resource Center thus far is solitary, as I sit at my kitchen counter with a cup of coffee, furiously typing notes from the websites of various Local Reentry Councils across North Carolina. I like to think that I’m an extroverted introvert, so this work actually suits me well.
This week, however, I started to send emails and make phone calls to various relevant county officials in hopes of scheduling interviews with them to learn more about the logistics and initiatives of their reentry programming. I feel confident in one-on-one, spontaneous interactions with almost anybody, but, like many people my age, I feel a strong sense of dread when faced with the task of sending an important email or making an important phone call. After making not one, but two, time-zone-related errors while scheduling a meet ing with the Program Director of Communities in Schools, I felt so anxious that I had to take a breather while I waited for her to reply.
While I searched my house for my dog (a proven source of anxiety relief), I began to wonder why a simple and understandable error sent me into such a tailspin. After some shallow breathing and deep thought, it occurred to me that my anxiety was coming from a place of profound respect for the woman I am soon to meet.
The Program Director of CIS, Reneé Leak, supervises the organization’s reentry program, which provides support and specialized programming for juvenile offenders as they are reintegrated into Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools. Ms. Leak and her staff dedicate their lives to advocating and caring for these kids and their families. In doing so, they must face the truth that our criminal justice system shows little mercy, not even to children.
In a country where so many choose to turn a blind eye to this kind of injustice when it feels like “too much,” the respect I have for those who choose to face it head-on is boundless. Although I don’t know them personally, Ms. Leak, along with every other official I plan to meet with, are role models to me. I admire their resolve in the face of a nearly insurmountable problem, and I hope to share in their bravery in my own future career.
I believe this admiration caused my anxiety today after the scheduling slip-up, and I feel fortunate to be working with people who I hold in such high regard.