ATLANTA—Before his senior year at Jonesboro High, Ga., Christofer Valdez-Martinez (B.S. ’22), did not think he was going to college. The second son of Mexican immigrants, he thought he’d join his siblings in the military or the workforce. His mom knew differently, though, and pushed her son to apply. He chose to attend the criminal justice program at Georgia State University.
“College was all new to me as a first-generation student,” he said. “I was a little nervous, but during my first semester at Georgia State I realized I had nothing to worry about. If I put in the effort, I’d be sure to succeed.”
Valdez sees his work in the criminal justice system a pathway to social justice.
“I’ve seen the disparate treatment between minorities and whites in the criminal justice system and want to change that,” he said. “I’ve learned there are a lot of changes that need to take place for our justice system to truly work as it should. As a Mexican American from the Latino community, I want to speak for those who don’t feel they have a voice.”
Valdez took an internship with the Georgia Department of Community Supervision which oversees probation and parole. He spent the semester shadowing officers in the Clayton Circuit and worked in the Day Reporting Center where programs in education, employment and substance abuse are offered. He did casework, often with the assistance of Officer Ashley Bruce (B.S.W. ’13), a Georgia State alumna who followed Valdez’s learning closely, showing him how to write case notes, create delinquent reports, and engage with supervisees.
“I’ve learned this supervision helps people,” he said. “Although imprisonment has been heavily relied upon, I think probation has a better chance of helping eliminate disparities. Employment and education programs are good at helping more people stay away from criminal behavior. They help them successfully reenter their communities and become productive citizens.”
Immediately upon graduation, Valdez will apply to be a community supervision officer in Clayton County. Long-term, he is interested in going to law school and becoming an immigration attorney.
“I attribute my going to college to my mom,” he said, “but there was also a poster I saw in high school with a quote from Aristotle that encouraged me to pursue higher education. ‘The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.’ I hope to continue using it to encourage others.”