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When we last spoke with Jaime Waldron earlier in April, she was a homeless college student worried about completing her online studies before graduation. Now, Waldron has officially graduated from the University of Massachusetts with a degree in criminal justice. She recently spoke with NewsHour Weekend's Zachary Green about her hopes for the future amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
This past April, we reported on homeless students caught in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of those students was Jaime Waldron, a criminal justice major at the University of Massachusetts.
At the time, Waldron was being provided year-round housing on the U-Mass Lowell campus and she was worried about balancing her online coursework with her job at a local grocery store.
Today, Waldron is officially a college graduate.
NewsHour Weekend's Zachary Green caught up with Waldron before her graduation last week.
How does it feel to be a college graduate now?
It's kind of scary because I'm not ready to be an adult yet. But it feels really good, though, too, knowing that I can go and get a full time job and have, like, the credentials to get a full time job in the field that I studied versus just working part time jobs and still attending school.
How do your job prospects look now? Are you worried about pursuing a career when so many people are out of work and so many people aren't hiring right now?
The good thing about the field that I studied is that COVID-19 isn't going to, like, stop the hiring. You can't work remotely in most criminal justice jobs. I've talked to someone about a job potentially in the Department of Youth Services and then I also just got another email about an interview, working in one of the prisons in Massachusetts, and so I'm not too worried right now.
I really want to work with the, like, reentry services, like, mental health services where they're gonna be living in, like, halfway houses, things like that, just setting them up for success for when they are no longer in prison.
So you've been working in a local grocery store all this time. What has that experience been like for you during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I was really worried at first about getting sick and not being able to work or getting someone else that I know sick. Now that the face coverings are required, it makes me feel a lot better and more comfortable that like everyone's taking the necessary steps towards protecting themselves and protecting others.
Now people are being more conscious about shopping and when they're shopping and if it's absolutely necessary, which makes me feel better.
So last time we spoke with you, you were homeless and you were being provided housing by UMass Lowell. Once you leave the college, what's your housing situation gonna be like?
Before the pandemic started, I had already signed a lease for an apartment with two of my friends in Lowell, actually just down the street from where I live now. I'll be living there, starting– like full time starting between June 1st or June 7th, depending when I fully move in and I will no longer be living on campus.
How does it feel after having after being housing insecure for such a long time?
It feels really good knowing that, like, it's my– like, where I live and it's my house. My legal address at first was my aunt's house where I didn't live. And then it was the school. And so now it'll be funny to see it and be like, oh, yeah, that's the apartment that I pay for and the apartment that I actually live in full time.
How are you feeling about your future right now? Are you worried that this situation might stretch out? Are you– are you more hopeful?
I would definitely say I'm more hopeful now than probably when this all first started. I feel like even if this pandemic stretches out, as long as I have my job as long as I have my job or hopefully my full time job, too, I am not too worried about losing my new housing situation because I know that I'll have a job that will pay me.
Jaime Waldron, thank you so much for joining us and congratulations on graduating.
No problem. Thank you so much.
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Zachary Green began working in online and broadcast news in 2009. Since then he has produced stories all over the U.S. and overseas in Ireland and Haiti. In his time at NewsHour, he has reported on a wide variety of topics, including climate change, immigration, voting rights, and the arts. He also produced a series on guaranteed income programs in the U.S. and won a 2015 National Headliner Award in business and consumer reporting for his report on digital estate planning. Prior to joining Newshour, Zachary was an Associate Producer for Need to Know on PBS, during which he assisted in producing stories on gun violence and healthcare, among others. He also provided narration for the award-winning online documentary series, “Retro Report”.
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