I grew up in the Salinas Valley in a small town called Castroville. While living here I have had many experiences with gangs and gang violence. I’ve known many friends that turned to the gang life and ended up in jail/prison. These experiences have always made me wonder why I ended up in grad school and others that I grew up with ended up in prison. This led me to Southern Oregon University to study Criminology and Criminal Justice to learn why people turn to crime. While working in a jail in Oregon, I was able to have many conversations with different inmates and I was able to see their perspective on life and the criminal justice system. Listening to these people’s stories re-enforced my belief that we need a better way of working with inmates instead of locking them up. These experiences have led me to MIIS to study International Policy and Development specializing in Conflict Resolution and Social Justice. I believe this is the right route for me to take to help groups of people in prison and communities that are harmed by gang violence.