Erika Cadena ’20 had the chance to go to jail.
The Dedham, MA, Crime and Justice Studies major took classes at the nearby Bristol County House of Corrections. The class included prison inmates as fellow students. Interacting with the inmates and being in the facility made her career choice real, she said. “It’s easy to see issues as black and white with easy answers, but it’s actually much more complex,” she added. “The classes and experiences I received gave me a deeper understanding of the system and how I can work to make it better.”
She came to UMass Dartmouth with a personal commitment to the issues around Black Lives Matter, an international movement that began in the United States to campaign against violence and systemic racism towards black people. Erika found her professors, who have worked in many different roles of the justice system, brought a passion and understanding about the issues that matter to her. “I had the opportunity to really connect with the professors and students and get feedback and grow,” she said.
During her internships, she saw the system from the inside as well. She shadowed a judge in the Moakley Federal Court in Boston and worked in pre-trial and probation, and she spent a term in Semester in the city, where she took classes and worked in juvenile justice programs. She plans to work with the incarcerated or in the juvenile justice system, and she is preparing to enter Simmons College to pursue her master's degree in social work as her next step.
UMass Dartmouth was a great start, she added. “I had lots of cool opportunities I didn’t even know existed,” Erika said.