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Dayton Docket

Leadership Honors Law Students Making a Difference One Job at a Time

Finding a job can be a challenging experience for anyone.

But include the added barrier of a felony conviction and many times the job search process can seem nearly impossible.

“Employers see that as a huge risk,” says Jennifer Mahan, a student in the University of Dayton School of Law’s Leadership Honors Program (LHP).

So as part of their Leadership Legacy Project, LHP students set out to demonstrate to employers why hiring returning citizens can be a benefit to their business and to show those with a conviction who are seeking a job what can make them more likely to land one.

“They’re people who made a mistake in their past,” Mahan says. “Knowing those people will have a second chance, that was the goal.”

To meet that goal, on the employer side, students put together a video to show the successes Dayton-area companies who hire returning citizens have seen.

“Our research showed these are great employees who were dedicated and adaptable to training,” Mahan says. “When they get an opportunity, they really hold on to it.”

On the returning citizen side, the students created a step-by-step video showing how to fill out a Certification of Qualification for Employment (CQE) form in Ohio. The form provides legal protection for companies if they hire the returning citizen who completes it.

Mahan says she and the other LHP students learned a great deal through their interactions with returning citizens.

“It was a humbling experience,” Mahan says. “We really got to connect with members of society we were trying to help but had never connected with before. We invited reentering citizens to speak to us. We learned about their lives from firsthand accounts.”

The students worked with Montgomery County Common Pleas Court Judge Mary Wiseman on the project.

“My hat goes off to the students because they did this in the midst of a semester impacted by COVID-19,” Judge Wiseman says. “Even with those challenges their heart was in helping the community and putting what they learned in law school to practical use.”

Judge Wiseman will now help get the videos to job agencies and other groups so that employers and returning citizens can have access to them.

“Hitting on that idea of let’s help people get jobs is so valuable,” Judge Wiseman says. “It is the best crime reduction tool we have across the country. Jobs do so much more than provide a financial reward. They give folks an opportunity for purpose and a sense of daily accomplishment.  A job can be what turns somebody’s life around.”

Mahan is excited to see the results of this project and hopes future LHP students continue to make an impact.

“We’ve learned the power of thinking about the community’s needs and how by putting our minds to finding a solution, we can make a huge difference,” Mahan says.

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