STOCKTON, Calif. - When Valerie Frazier retired from the prison system as a parole administrator and went to work as a pastor at HOPE ministries, she didn't leave her first career far behind.
She now oversees Youth Leadership Academies at HOPE, puts teens through eight-week programs that pay, and offers classes for nutrition and money management. Frazier also has the kids sit and talk with women serving life sentences at the prison in Chowchilla.
"I spent 25 years dealing with prisoners. My goal and hope is we can do something different. All of you are here because I want you to have a better life," She tells the teens before she dials in the video feed from the prison.
Many of the kids have loved ones serving sentences, or they have loved ones who've died through criminal activity. They're not necessarily on track to make the same mistakes as those around them, but Frazier does everything she can to keep them focused on good choices, not bad ones.
"This is real life. There's death, life in prison, a short time in prison, or you can make the right choices," she says to the group.
For about 30 minutes, the prisoners recount their stories about being bullied, having low self esteem, or joining a gang. Frazier then has each youth to come to the front of the room and engage with the women. The women can see the kids, just as the kids see them.
"I'm grateful for the stories you told us, It showed us to think before we act," HOPE teen Desiree Love said.
"I learned anything I do has a consequence," said Alysha Johnson, another HOPE teen.
"i hope one day they ( inmates ) can come out. When you lose someone, it's hard," Jakesha Hillman said through tears as she remembered an uncle who was murdered.
Frazier repeated key advice for the teens after one talked of wanting to get even with someone who'd stolen shoes from him.
"Sometimes we choose to get involved when we need to leave it alone and let it go," she said.