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Isme’s Journey: From Incarceration to Inspiration

As we continue to recognize Mental Health Awareness Month, Isme Chavez’s story of resilience and transformation highlights the profound impact of mental health on personal growth and change for justice-impacted individuals.

Growing up, Chavez, 30, faced physical and emotional abuse, abandonment, and sexual abuse at a young age. Her turbulent childhood led her to run away from home, drop out of high school, and become a mother at the age of 15. Her life took a dramatic turn when she was incarcerated at 19, serving a 7-year-to-life sentence.

It was during her time in prison that she began the hard work of self-reflection and transformative change. “I had to really face me, of all people,” she recalls. “It was my own demons, my own ways, my own trauma.” Confronting her past and understanding the reasons behind her actions was a pivotal part of her transformation.

At the end of the tunnel, there really is light. It might not be the brightest, but if you’re able to survive and make it out, you are more than gold

Isme Chavez
Orijin Support Associate

After 10 years of dedication and rehabilitation, Chavez earned her parole. Today, she serves as a Support Associate at Orijin, where she constantly taps into and shares her own experiences as a formerly incarcerated individual, which is essential in meeting their unique needs. At Orijin, she has gained key workplace skills, from basic computer functions to customer service, all while being supported by a team that believes in her potential.

Chavez is currently working towards her high school equivalency, a crucial step in her life journey. She emphasizes the importance of maintaining hope and faith, even in the darkest times. “At the end of the tunnel, there really is light. It might not be the brightest, but if you’re able to survive and make it out, you are more than gold.”

She has become a beacon of hope for the justice-impacted. Her work not only transforms her own life but also impacts those around her, showing that second chances are possible. “Orijin believes in second chances. They are supporting us and showing us love. Thank you for that second chance.”

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