Hi my name is Dolphy Jordan. Funny enough I met Kim through working with another non-profit. We invited her to speak at an event and towards the end she publicly declared that she would get me to speak at one of her workshops. She called me one day soon after and said she needed someone to fill in at an Interagency school to speak with young people who were truant. Even though I was unsure of exactly what The If Project was I jumped at the opportunity.
I showed up nervous and naturally asked some of the other team members what I should say. They all replied with the same thing; just share some of your personal experiences. Easy enough, I thought, while simultaneously thinking why, who there is going to relate to my story.
A story of how I was born addicted to heroin. Of how I was raised in a dysfunctional and abusively broken home. Of how my first memory was of my father punching my mother in a drunken rage. When the beatings turned towards me, my mother decided to escape with my sister and me and raise us on her own.
At the time I did not realize how these events were shaping me as a person. I felt alone, I felt unloved, I felt angry, and most of all I felt unwanted. I ended up getting into lots of trouble growing up; I started using drugs, getting into fights and was passed from home to home and into foster care. By the 9th grade I had attended 15 different schools, mostly in what they called special ed classes at the time, and getting kicked out of just about all of them and running the streets.
After getting kicked out of the 9th grade for the second time at the age of 16, I made the worst decision of my life. One that caused me to be arrested and sentenced to 27 years in prison as an adult. Something I am terribly sorry for and will have to live with for the rest of my life and one of the many reasons I try to give back as much as I can today.
While at the age of 16 and well into my incarceration, I did not fully understand what was going on. I was scared, confused, and thought I would never get out. As the years rolled by I kept seeing men get out and come back and children, who like me, come into a system they did not understand or trust. I realized something needed to change. For me that realization came through education. I started reading anything I could get my hands on and taking any classes offered through the Department of Corrections, which wasn’t much, to prepare myself for my eventual release after 21½ years. I was only given 4 months to make this transition through custody levels. By this time I was so focused on getting an education nothing else mattered.
I was able to register and start classes just before my release and walking onto a college campus for the first time was one of the scariest things I have ever done. Then on this day, April 19th, I walked out of prison for the last time.
About one year into my degree while doing some advocacy for re entry and criminal justice reform I met Kim Bogucki and was introduced to The If Project. After years of running the streets and growing up in the prison system, I never thought I would become friends with a police officer, let alone work hand in hand with one.
So on that day, I went to the Interagency school and listened to Kim do her intro of the If Project and explain why she does it, and I shared my story. The impact was magical. To see these kids sit up and lean forward with determination and a look of hope was amazing to me. I realized they can relate to me, maybe not all of them, but some who are struggling with things I experienced realized they do have a choice and with a little guidance and willingness to ask for help they don’t have to make some of the mistakes I made, and can start planning for a better future full of opportunity because it is never too late to change.
In conclusion I just want to say since that fateful day, this kid who had a crazy childhood and was in special ed classes growing up, graduated college with honors and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Honor at commencement and have done countless workshops with Kim and the If team. It is truly an honor to be able to play a small part in this transformation and IF I can say or do something to change someone’s path, what do you think you can do?