Friday, April 30, 2010

Sisters on opposite sides of the law

      Sonia Davis doesn’t reveal her sister’s name: “We try to keep where I am separate from where she’s at. We live very different lives.”
      Where “she’s at” is in a Washington state prison, serving four years for gang-related activity.
      Sonia is at a very different place in the criminal justice system. She’s Grant County’s chief deputy clerk, where she handles court records. She’s earning a degree in criminal justice through Washington State University’s online degree program. On Monday, she was named the University’s Outstanding Undergraduate Criminal Justice Student.
      Sonia’s interest in criminal justice began at age 17, when her 15-year-old sister got involved with a gang in Moses Lake.
      “It’s what made me decide what I wanted to do,” Davis said. “I was tired of being surrounded by criminal activity both in the community and in my own family. Instead of just talking about doing something, I wanted to have a positive influence.” More...      That dedication helped her win the WSU award, said David C. Brody, associate professor and academic director of the criminal justice program. “Sonia was selected based on the quality of her work, the collaborative and selfless way she participated in WSU Online courses, and dedication and focus she has exhibited while at WSU.”
      Davis drove from Ephrata, Washington, on Monday with her husband and grandfather to receive the award.
      “It’s exciting,” she said. “It humbles me to receive such an honor.”
      It was Davis’ first visit to the Pullman campus since 1996. She earned her associate’s degree from Big Bend Community College in Moses Lake, then transferred to WSU in 1995. An illness in the family forced her to leave a year later. She enrolled in WSU online courses in 2001, but delayed her education again to start a family.
      “So here I am now, all these years later, and I am moving full speed ahead.”
      Sonia plans to graduate in May 2011 with a minor in psychology. She’ll take the summer off, then begin pursuing a Ph.D. Her goal is to become a psychology professor.
      “I have a passion for criminal justice and psychology and want to share that passion with others,” she said. “I want to be where I have an impact. As a teacher, I’d have an impact on many people all at once.”
      It will be difficult for Sonia to have an impact on her sister. “Once you’re involved with gangs, it’s hard to get out,” she said. But, when it comes to the next generation, Sonia said even the fact she’s in college will have a powerful influence on her daughters, Hannah, 9, and Emma, 6.
      “The girls cannot fully understand why I am going to school,” Sonia said, “but I am sure it will become clear to them in time. I want to set an example. I want them to know it is never too late to pursue your passion, no matter what curves life throws you.”

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