Paradyse Oakley, 17, is making strides at her high school through making sure that kids and loved ones of inmates are able to express themselves and their rights. Oakley has created bills, brought programs to her school and is involved in countless extra curricular activities.
Oakley grew up having a solid relationship with her mom and dad. However, when she was 11, her father was arrested and convicted for driving under the influence for the second time. Oakley took her sorrow and experiences and made them into her own movement of supporting people going through the same situation.
“I remember the lawyer that my dad had wasn’t really helpful. Lawyers are suppose to help and protect their clients and that’s what I want to do,” Oakley said. “At that moment I knew that I wanted to be a public servant.”
During middle school Oakley took on her first initiative of helping people through an anti-bullying film while at a summer institute. While Oakley hadn’t experienced bullying herself, she would always try to help others who she saw being treated wrong. Her essay accompanying the film landed her with a recommendation to join YMCA’s Youth and Government program which teaches high school students how to create bills and legislation.
The first bill that she worked on with the organization was to have mandatory training for teachers on how to work with difficult students instead of sending them out of class. Throughout high school, Oakley worked with the organization to push more bills including creating gardens in empty lots and giving pets to veterans. Working with Youth and Government inspired Oakley to bring her own program to her school.
After speaking with one of her teachers, she decided that she wanted her school to be a campus that has a Pain of Prison System (POPS) club. This program is one where students come weekly and share their stories through writing, drawing and speaking. At the end of the year, a book is made with all of the stories from the teens. The club spans out to different campuses throughout the country, but Oakley was the first to bring it to Lawndale High School. It is now in it’s second year of helping students.
“We should conquer this problem head on,” Oakley said. “It’s very important to know that once you’re sentencing someone, you’re also sentencing their kids to time away from their parent and they have to deal with that.”
The YMCA Youth and Government Weingart Irvine delegation is supporting Oakley’s bill this year, which is to amend the bill of rights for kids of prisoners. She is fighting to create and sponsor more initiatives like POPS throughout the state. As of now, the bill of rights for kids with incarcerated parents does not require schools to provide educational counseling to its students. Oakley’s amendment is to implement a structured and coherent counseling program that students can have access to in every school.
“When my dad got incarcerated, I would always write every night, either to him or just to myself to encourage myself so I know that writing was key to me getting through the incarceration of my dad,” said Oakley. “I just feel like everyone should have it and it’s feasible to have in high schools.”
Along with being the president of POPS at her school, Oakley is also the co-president of her school’s Black Student Union, a member of the track team, a mentor to freshmen through Link Crew, team manager of the boy’s basketball team and a member of the Joy Life Club which spreads Christianity through service.
For more information about Paradyse Oakley, visit her blog at paradyseo.blogspot.com or shoot her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.