Former UVA student pardoned after an arrest during his first year
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - A former University of Virginia student was recently pardoned by governor Ralph Northam for a crime he committed while at the school. Now, he’s using his story as an opportunity to uplift youths who may be struggling.
“One isolated incident can turn into a whole host of negative consequences and a spiral of negative behavior, ” former UVA student, Jared Brown said.
When Jared was a first-year more than ten years ago, his life was on the right track.
“In May, right around graduation time, I was honored by the NAACP, as the most outstanding first-year college student,” Jared said.
On the outside, Jared was a star, but on the inside he was struggling. He says he struggled with his identity and sexuality and began drinking frequently. One night, it led to an assault.
“I was arrested and later incarcerated,” Jared said.
A misdemeanor assault pulled Jared out of his dorm room, and into a jail cell for two weeks.
“I think that that was a really defining moment for me personally, because in a lot of ways, it felt really defeating, humiliating,” Jared said.
But, he wouldn’t let this moment define him. Jared took off a few weeks from school after being released, and then the University community welcomed his return.
“The career path that I’ve taken around service, giving back, empowering other young people was really strongly shaped by my experience at UVA immediately after that incident,” Jared said. “People were willing to give me a second chance, willing to empower me and willing to create pathways to opportunity for me as well.”
Since his arrest, Jared has worked with Facebook and the Obama Foundation. He was also on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list.
“I think that, in hindsight, I think that I was really sort of wanting to better understand my identity,” Jared said. “And sort of put on, you know, this era of being someone who, you know, I wasn’t.”
He took advantage of internships on UVA grounds too. He says this helped his resume, and conceal the blemish of his crime. The chances the University offered helped him build his career to where it is today. More than 10 years later, his crime was pardoned by Governor Ralph Northam in October.
“There’s light at the end of the tunnel,” Jared said. “Don’t see yourself through isolated shortcomings or failures. When you commit in your mind, that you want to keep charging forward, that you want to find a way to be a meaningful contributor to society, there will be people who will help you.”
Jared acknowledges he is lucky. Not everyone will have the resources UVA provided him, and his crime did not hinder his career like it would for many. A pardon though, could help him inside.
“There haven’t been any significant limitations for me personally, in terms of professional opportunities, or in terms of education, but it’s certainly been a huge boost in terms of self esteem”
To Jared, Northam’s Pardon is now also a tool to advocate and inspire others.
“This is just really a great opportunity for me to leverage this incredible story to empower other people, and to show them that there are opportunities for second chances in this country,” Jared said.
Jared wants others to know they too can fight for that second chance.
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