When Jonathan Roach graduated from high school, he was thirsty for higher education, but as an inmate in Alameda County’s Juvenile Hall, the opportunity didn’t exist. Yet despite his lack of resources, Roach became the first person in Alameda County to begin his college career while still a prisoner of the juvenile justice system.
In 2010, Roach was arrested and charged with armed robbery. He was only 15, living life in poverty with his single mother and five other siblings.
“I made a mistake,” he admits. “I was on the wrong path, wasn’t going to school and ended up making a big mistake and going to prison.”
During the two years Roach spent in juvenile hall, he got back in school, attending daily classes and taking on independent study before accumulating enough credits to earn his high school diploma. But as Roach reached this major milestone in his life there were no caps, no gowns and he had little to look forward to except extended hours in his jail cell.
“After you graduate you’re just in your room because you don’t have to go to school,” he said, “and what you have is a lot of violent young men without anything to do.”
(First published by Oakland Local and used here by permission)