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Internship Decided Alumna’s Future

07/06/16

When looking for just the right internship to pair with her minor in criminal justice, new alumna Sierra Bailey ’16 of Hoosick Falls, N.Y., an interdisciplinary studies major who focused on social work, said the opportunity to work at the Berkshire County Jail and House of Correction “jumped right out” at her.

The internship, Bailey said, decided her future. Now, it’s her dream to work in a prison or jail setting.

Headed to the University at Albany this fall to pursue a dual master’s program in social work and criminal justice, Bailey plans a career devoted to helping inmates change their lives for the better, and to making the work environment safer for those who work with them.

“The United States has the highest imprisonment rates, which creates an endless cycle of violence that needs to be stopped,” Bailey said.  “Jails and prisons are seen as extremely negative places, but, as someone who worked there, I tried to see the positive.

“The inmates need positive role models to help them understand that they can change if they want to change, and that it is a choice.”

Working in a jail was not easy, Bailey said. “During my internship, I heard a lot of staff commenting that they felt like they were imprisoned themselves, because they were there so often. It is a very dangerous work environment, but I want to be able to help change this.”

During her internship at the Berkshire County Jail and House of Correction, “I got to know a lot of the inmates with criminal charges, from drug cases to murder cases. That was my favorite part. I did a lot of one-on-one and group work with the inmates. I loved hearing their stories and trying to figure out how I could help them.”

Bailey aims to help provide inmates with the tools they need to succeed in life, including a place to live, an education, a support system, health care, and more. “My passion is to help people better themselves.”  

According to Bailey, MCLA’s interdisciplinary studies program is “awesome” because it allows students to build their own majors through the courses they select.

“I had a hard time deciding what I wanted to study, but this program allowed me to incorporate many different subjects,” she said.

As an undergraduate, Bailey also involved herself in a variety of experiences outside of the classroom. On the women’s softball team for all four years, she learned social skills, time management and discipline, she explained. She also worked for MCLA’s intramural program and the Department of Athletics.

In addition, Bailey served as the public relations chair for the Town House Advisory Board, and attended several residence hall conferences.

Bailey said MCLA’s close-knit community prepared her for success because the professors get to know and help their students “every step of the way.”

“The Department of Athletics was beyond helpful to their athletes – not only with sports, but inside the classroom. Everyone is always checking in on you and making sure everything is going well.”

What’s her advice to new students? In a word, “explore.”

“Reach out to your professors. Join clubs and organizations. Volunteer,” she said. “Keep busy, but make sure you make time for yourself.”  

Bailey recommends MCLA to prospective students.

“You will get one-on-one time with professors. They are there to help you succeed. You aren’t stuck in a classroom with more than 100 people. The professors take the time to work with you to make sure you understand the material. Everyone knows you by your first name. MCLA is a well-rounded community and a gorgeous campus.”