2016-17 Jean O’Connor-Snyder Intern Kimberly Oliveira reflects on her experience living and learning in Jasper.

As I look back on the two months I spent in Jasper, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the community’s acceptance and desire to teach me about small town life in Alabama. 

As a woman from California and as a student from the University in Tuscaloosa, I had my own preconceived beliefs about what I would find in Walker County when I started my internship.  

Fortunately, within days of living in this beautiful city and meeting so many welcoming people, I found myself learning so much about the area. Although I was initially hesitant, my work with Judge Henry Allred and the Walker Area Community Foundation provided me with opportunities to see much of what Walker County had to offer.

While I have taken pre-law classes and read about the criminal justice system, nothing compares to real world knowledge and experience…I was also able to witness the strength and humility of those graduating from the Drug Court treatment program.

 

The WACF set us up with community dinners twice a week. All of these dinners were inspiring as we met with people from different areas. Having the opportunity to speak with Cordova Mayor Drew Gilbert and hear his passion and desire to serve his community was humbling. Bob Bryan and his lovely wife Missy introduced us to Warehouse 319 our first week, which started our trivia night winning streak. 

Although I enjoyed my time exploring what Japer and Walker County had to offer, I am most grateful for my experiences observing District Court every day of my internship. In short, I enjoyed and appreciated Judge Allred allowing me to witness something I had not experienced before. I am currently a rising junior at the University of Alabama, and I plan attend law school after I graduate. While I have taken pre-law classes and read about the criminal justice system, nothing compares to real world knowledge and experience.

I am passionate about justice and hope to become a district attorney or public defender. Being in the courtroom gave me the opportunity to see the implementation of justice for those who have broken the law and the reality of the criminal justice system. Like many in school, I have romanticized what my future career will be, and this internship allowed for me to have a dose of reality.

The people who I saw every day were inspiring. They didn’t practice law because they wanted the glamourous job we see on television. They do it because they are helping keep their community safe.  That is admirable.

 

I was also able to witness the strength and humility of those graduating from the Drug Court treatment program. Prior to my internship, I had never heard of a treatment program overseen by judges, attorneys, and mental health professionals. Looking back now, I am still in awe of the inner strength of the program’s participants.

Overall, this entire experience, from observing court to Thursday night trivia contests as well as other community events, made this an unforgettable experience I will treasure for the rest of my life. Whether I am in California, Alabama or London, I will always be an ambassador for the great city of Jasper and the fantastic people of Walker County.

-Kimberly Oliveira