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My Life’s Purpose Confirmed

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An emerging advocate for justice

Shannon Byrd, University of Cincinnati
Shannon Byrd, University of Cincinnati

I knew early on that I wanted to become an attorney. The why, on the other hand, was not as easily known. My name is Shannon Byrd, and from age eight I always knew I wanted to become a lawyer fighting for the underserved, underprivileged, and disenfranchised. How this dream would become a reality, however, was another matter entirely. Twenty-three years later, I can say that I am almost finished chasing my dream. Currently, I am a senior at the University of Cincinnati majoring in Criminal Justice with a minor in Psychology. I work full-time and have a six year old son that watches me attack my dream every day; and through my work here at the Ohio Justice and Policy Center, I have never been more certain about my life’s purpose.

For example, while conducting a Certificate of Qualification for Employment (CQE) intake session with a fellow intern, I made such an impression on an applicant that she began to cry, and it lasted until the end of the session. When the session was over she asked, “How was I able to pick the word she was going to use, before she used it”? The word was “deconstructed,” as this seemed to sum up her situation adequately due to the charges she incurred and the impact they had on her life. Helping this person, and listening to her story, is what cemented my urge for becoming what I intimated early in my life—to help advocate and fight for change.

When I left OJPC, I left empowered knowing that my career choice is on solid foundation, and I took solace knowing that I took part in life-changing work; I observed a deposition, helped people obtain CQE’s, and even assisted to get their records sealed from dangerous collateral sanctions hindering people from becoming productive citizens.