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Loyola students step up to give hope to former inmates

Loyola students step up to give hope to former inmates

Loyola student Aliya Syed works with a participant at the Summit of Hope, an annual event that provides community services and support to encourage parolees and probationers who are re-entering society to remain crime-free.

By Gabrielle Barnes | Student Reporter

Inside the gym at Willye B. White Park hangs a colorful banner that reads, “A dream without a plan is only a wish.” Outside, a line of parolees wait to gain entrance into what they hope is a fresh start. The Summit of Hope provides community services and support to those re-entering into society in order to become responsible, crime-free citizens. When asked for volunteers to assist the Summit of Hope event, Loyola students took action. 

“I volunteered because I think the criminal justice system is warped and stigmatizes people who are re-entering society too much,” said sophomore journalism and environmental science double major Maggie Yarnold, who was among the over 125 Loyola undergraduates who volunteered for the Summit of Hope event.

Whether their time was spent handing out T-shirts with emblazoned with the Summit of Hope logo or pairing up with a parolee to guide them through the vendors, students had the chance to interact with the parolees and probationers.  

Making a difference

Junior political science and economics double major, Kyle Chan, decided to participate after his experience volunteering with a youth program to keep children of prison inmates on a good path. After hearing that the majority of the children he mentored ended up following in the steps of their parents, he wanted to see if the Summit of Hope event could give these parolees the push they needed to stay on the straight and narrow. 

The Summit of Hope’s vendors provided numerous resources available such as healthcare center information, educational support, and family service support. Participants were also given essentials items like prepaid cell phones, secondhand dress shirts, toothbrushes, and even free passes to the Brookfield Zoo for those with families. 

Adam Glueckert, a senior majoring in environmental policy, said he enjoyed listening to the unique, personal stories from attendees but he also recognized the programs communal benefits. 

 “The Summit of Hope provided a positive outlet for community restorative justice, giving formerly incarcerated individuals the opportunity to find a life beyond the criminal justice system. It also gave the community the opportunity to interact with individuals that have experienced these direct impacts of the criminal justice system.” 

Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology professor Brandi Vigil, served as the university liaison and the Illinois Department of Corrections. She said that the Summit of Hope aligns with Loyola’s mission because it “focuses on the human as a whole and because the university campus is so close to a lot of folks attempting to re-enter society—it’s a natural connection to the community and Loyola.” 

The program attracted students across disciplines but the teaching within the Jesuit tradition connected many who volunteered, including Senior Jessica Nosalsk.

“My Jesuit education has preached compassion for all members of society,” said Nosalsk, a criminal justice major. “The conversations with my assigned parolee were memorable, and when we were finished, we wished each other well. It was authentic.”