Parole Project Community Outreach: Rebuilding Lives, Rebuilding Communities

Louisiana Parole Project staffers Christi Cheramie, Matthew Pineda, and Aaliyah Reed-Evins met with community stakeholders Jodie Sturgeon, Louisiana State Prison Transition Specialist, Valorie Dawson, West Feliciana Prevention Coalition, and Nicole Carter, Louisiana Health Connect, to speak with students at West Feliciana Alternative High School.

Many social experts who study human behavior have compelling arguments that young people are under stress like never before. From gun violence to the proliferation of drugs and cyberbullying, life can be tough for today’s teens. Parole Project Reentry Manager Christi Cheramie and Community Engagement Coordinator Matthew Pineda addressed that stress when they spent the day speaking with students at West Feliciana Alternative School. The two shared their experiences of being sentenced to life in prison as children. They bonded with the students over shared obstacles and the kids soaked in words of wisdom.

“If I can just change the life of one, stop just one from making the mistakes I did I’ll be happy,” said Christi. Matthew focused on having a positive circle of friends and making smart decisions. “I was a good kid who made one stupid decision that took away over 30 years of my life. I don’t want that for any one of you,” he said. Communications Manager, Aaliyah Reed-Evins, shared her experiences as a former corrections officer. “You don’t want to be told what to do for the rest of your life, what to wear, what to eat. No one wants to live like that.”

This visit from Parole Project staff marked the beginning of what will hopefully be a long-lasting relationship with the students and the alternative school community.

Christi made connections with students in whom she recognized many of her own adolescent experiences.
Matthew speaks about being incarcerated and sentenced to life in prison at just 16 years old.