For most seniors, graduation and prom are some of the most stressful moments of a high school career, but for Jordan, it was making a call to a disappointed mother from DC Jail. At just 17 years old, he found himself in a jail cell facing time for a criminal offense—one of his first, ever. Jordan was charged and incarcerated as an adult even though he was only 17.

Having always dreamed of going to college, Jordan remained optimistic. In jail, he continued his education by completing coursework, and he became an avid participant in Free Minds Book Club & Writing Workshop. Dealing with a harsh new reality, he was reluctant to join the book club at first, but he credits Free Minds as being one of the very few visitors he had while incarcerated. “Other than my therapist, Free Minds was my only visitor every week; they brought me books that were relatable to my situation.” After Jordan had served a few months at the jail, his high school guidance counselor attended his court hearing and asked his judge to reconsider his sentencing so that he could finish high school and attend college. Taking the request into consideration, as well as Jordan’s scholarly background, his judge cleared Jordan to return home on high intensity supervision.

Realizing that he had a second chance, Jordan figured that this was his opportunity to make everything right again. Jordan participated in the bimonthly Job Readiness and Skill Building Apprenticeship with Free Minds, as well as our weekly book club and writing workshop program known as “The Build Up” (referring to the way prison tears people down, but at Free Minds we build each other up).

“I kept a relationship with Free Minds. I came to the weekly Build Up sessions to discuss different topics (i.e. books, current events, incarceration, etc.) and I learned job skills in the Job Readiness and Skill Building Apprenticeship. Additionally, Free Minds hired me to share my story with youth as a tool for continuing to pursue their goals and chasing their dreams.”

As a Free Minds Poet Ambassador, Jordan has spoken with students and community members throughout DC—including the Librarian of Congress, Carla Hayden!

Nearly two years after his incarceration, Jordan is now 19 years old. He got to attend his prom, graduate high school, and was accepted into more than 10 universities (awarded over $170,000 in scholarships!). Now a college freshman working towards a business management degree, Jordan is also happy to experience life outside of DC. “College is my way to stay focused and its working. School has always kept me focused, and I knew that being away from DC would do just that. Most of my time at school is spent writing when I’m not focused on schoolwork.”

When reflecting on his goals while in college, Jordan shared, “I hope to leave my university as a role model who can come back and talk to kids younger than me about overcoming obstacles, beating the odds, and achieving success to become who you want to be in life.”

Good luck next semester, Jordan!

Three people stand in a row holding a book called The Untold Story of the Real Me

Jordan (left), with Free Minds Prison Book Club Manager Jessica Xiao and Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden


  1. Katarina on December 14, 2019 at 12:19 PM

    This is a really inspiring story. It encouraged me to keep on believing in my dreams and keep on fighting no matter how hopeless I feel.

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