A passport to a new life


City College hosts the 4th annual Passport for Life: Career and Education Expo. An expo which focuses on giving young people on probation, skills and life lessons that can benefit them. Troy Orem, City Times

By Adam Burkhart

Roughly 800 youths crowded City College on August 14 for the Passport to Life Career and Education Expo, an event for the benefit of youths on probation in the San Diego Superior Court system.

The message iterated by organizers and speakers was that law enforcement and the courts want to stop crime not solely through incarceration, but also by guiding youths to the right path.

“We’ve all made mistakes,” said Juvenile Court Judge Carolyn M. Caietti, “but that doesn’t mean it has to define [our] future.”

Caietti began the program four years ago for the young people who she saw could use encouragement and guidance during a difficult time in their lives. She believes that having City College host the event can have a big impact on youth setting foot on the college campus. “It’s City College that I think has made a difference,” she says. “Just by showing up, [they] see that they can go to college.”

A big focus of the expo is, of course, introducing young people to career possibilities. Karen Dalton, public information officer for the San Diego Superior Court, acknowledged the obstacles faced by job applicants with a criminal record: “It’s difficult enough to get a job when you have a clean slate and a college education.”

To give young probationers a leg up, Passport to Life offers workshops where they can begin to learn about developing personal skills and habits that will serve them in school and at work, as well as available scholarships and student aid.

Around 80 organizations comprised of representatives from schools, the military, training services and companies looking to employ workers set up informational exhibits in Gorton Quad.

Hosmar Hernandez, 19, who is currently finishing up a 10 month prison term, was released for the day, under supervision, so that he could attend Passport to Life.

Hernandez’s story is unique, yet the experience of parents frequently absent during childhood and an abusive father is perhaps familiar to many teens convicted of crimes.

“I was kind of…an emotional kid,” said Hernandez. “Them not being around that much, I felt like I needed something all my life.” Hernandez said his best memories come from the time his mother quit working to stay home and take care of him and his siblings.

Lacking a strong family structure, Hernandez fell early on into a criminal lifestyle, taking drugs and moving between abandoned buildings with friends.

An unheeded warning from an elder cousin finally made an impression when Hernandez entered prison. “He broke it down to me…and everything he told me has happened.”

Hernandez said he now wants a better life and to make better decisions. His counselor and probation officers have taken notice and chose him to attend the event because of his good behavior.

Of the event, he said: “the thing I learned today, just by seeing and being here, talking to certain people…there’s a lot of chances. I never knew there was that much opportunity.”