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Lisa Lowery: From Prisoner to Paralegal

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Lisa Lowery is a 2009 graduate of the Talk To Me Circle & Discovery Program at the GEO Lockhart Facility.  This 14-week program is designed to deepen the inmates’ self-understanding and wise use of freedom of choice; to improve communication skills, through writing, speaking and respectful listening; to develop tools of self-expression; as well as to grow the understanding in the importance of community and creativity, both to be thought of as tools for transformation.

 Lisa has just celebrated her fourth year of living in her hometown of Amarillo.  Please read the article that was written about her today in The Amarillo College News.  We are so proud of her!

Interviewed and the article written by: Joe Wyatt, Communications Coordinator for Amarillo College

Lisa Lowery knew going in that mediocrity was not likely to suffice, not for her. What she could not know, however, was just how far even academic excellence might take a convicted felon who was seeking a paralegal career. Lisa therefore took aim at unequalled academic excellence—and she nailed it. 

Lisa was named Paralegal Major of the Year in 2012, the same year she graduated from Amarillo College with a 3.96 grade point average, and just three years removed from a six-year stay in the state prison system. That latter experience might have seriously diminished her chances of becoming a working paralegal, especially had she been an ordinary student, but Lisa’s unparalleled prowess made a huge difference.

 That’s why she is happily employed today in the law office of Amarillo attorney William R. McKinney, Jr., who was naturally apprehensive when he first reviewed her application and the full disclosure of her past that it contained.

 “Lisa was an incredible student, the best. The only B she made at AC was in typing,” Bruce Moseley, director of AC’s Paralegal Program, said. “My tests are extremely hard, but if there were 100 points to be had, plus extra credit, Lisa scored 110 every time.  

“I had a long discussion with Mr. McKinney about Lisa because I truly believed the only thing he might regret would be passing up a chance to hire her. I don’t think he has any regrets about that now.”  

She may have made her paralegal studies look easy, but the truth is Lisa had to work hard for her exceptional grades—she began her AC experience in remedial classes—knowing all the while that only exceptional results might positively change potential employers’ perceptions once they learned of her unhappy past.

  The short version of that past is this: When Lisa was 12 and living in the Metroplex, her mother stepped out into the driveway with a loaded gun and committed suicide. Lisa disliked the stepmother who arrived almost immediately; she ran away from home while in the eighth grade and began using drugs. By the time she reached her 20s, Lisa had earned a GED and reconciled with her father, but at age 23 she experienced renewed misery when her dad was shot and killed at the convenience store he operated. The very next year, she underwent chemotherapy and had a mastectomy.

  Lisa’s use of methamphetamines spiraled out of control after that. Her health waned. Virtually skeletal, she was busted in 2003 for possession and theft by forgery. While incarcerated, she learned that her brother had died of a drug overdose.

  “I thought God hated me,” Lisa said. “I could not have been more wrong. It was God who changed my life, who saved me. He brought me a lot of tangible help through those in my church.” 

Her path to redemption began behind bars. She discovered a latent faith and became a peer educator, teaching new inmates about health, hygiene and HIV. By mail she received a certificate of completion in restoration ministry from the NET Institute, so she could help restore broken families upon her parole, which finally came in October of 2009. She moved to Amarillo to live with an aunt who was active in a local ministry.  

Lisa, whose mother had been a legal secretary, had always been interested in the law. Once she achieved residency within the Amarillo College District, she enrolled at AC and began remedial work in writing and math, with one eye on the Paralegal Program. That was in 2010.

“My English and writing were at a seventh-grade level,” she said. “My algebra was dismal. I had nine months of remedial work, and I did it with the wonderful help of the tutors at AC. There are so many incredible people and resources there, like the math lab, and the writing center, and of course Mr. Moseley, who encouraged me beyond belief.

 “I’d been an A student all through grade school. The help I got at AC helped me figure out how to be a student again, how to take tests.”  

Hard tests are no triviality, but compared to hard time, well … Lisa went on to set a new standard in the Paralegal Program. The rest, as they say, is history. Or it would be were Lisa not still connected to AC’s Paralegal Program in an unofficial way. Moseley occasionally connects her with students who express interest in his program but whose own pasts are flecked with dubious occurrences: people who logically question their own ultimate employability.

 “I’m honest with them,” Lisa said. “I tell them my story. It’s pretty harsh. I mean, I was in the penitentiary, and that’s a hindrance in getting any job, but especially in the law.


“But I also tell them that if they are willing to give it everything they’ve got, if they are committed to what it takes to excel, then anything is possible. I tell them that because I’ve personally discovered that it’s true, and if I could do it, I believe they can do it, too.”

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About Jen

Living life the best that I can one day at a time...Whovian, Sci-fi fanatic, enjoys traveling, reading, music, sports & dancing.

12 responses »

  1. Lisa, I cannot begin to express how proud I am of you and how happy I am for you. Your determination has made all the difference in the world.
    With love,
    Natalie, your TTM Circle facilitator

    Reply
  2. I appreciate all of your kind works and thank you for them. I give all the Glory to the Lord!
    Lisa

    Reply
  3. You sweetie are the face and life of “With God all things are possible” what a blessing it us to all of us to hear and read stories like this..WOW!!!! WOW!!!!!

    Reply
  4. God is so good! May you continue to be blessed Lisa! You truly have a awesome testimony! Happy for you & your achievments! Love you! Dianne

    Reply
  5. I want to thank all of you for your wonderful and encouraging words!
    Love all of you! Lisa

    Reply
    • S Elaine Tidenberg

      What a joy to get to know Lisa! Moving here a year ago and looking to make new friends, an angel named Lisa appeared. I didn’t know when I first met Lisa of her past journey but as we became friends she opened up to me & shared. I would of never known if she had not shared with me some of her experiences, as Lisa is the most gentle kind hearted girl I’ve ever met. Such a blessing to see The love of the Lord and love for her family. Overcoming all the obstacles and adversities is a true testimony that ANYONE can better their future. It’s all about choice…end of story!! Determination and will to make a difference not only in your own life, but to make a difference in others lives. And this is exactly what Lisa has done! YOU GO GIRL! So proud to call you my friend! To many many days of JOY, LAUGHTER, LOVE & FRIENDSHIP for years to come. Elaine

      Reply
  6. Reading Lisa’s post was my Hallelujah moment of the day! I remember you well, LIsa and your deep and profound commitment to your recovery. You are living proof that the wounds of our pasts do not define us. I am so very proud of you and also in awe of you, dear soul. Many Blessings!

    Reply
  7. How powerful it is to have a goal and a mentor and the ability to stick to it! Thanks for posting this. So much is possible when we acknowledge and transcend our limitations.

    Reply
  8. I just want to say I second everything Ginger says above. Her words resonate with me deeply. It’s very timely that I’m reading about Lisa’s journey today, because lately — after almost four years of facilitating Talk to Me and Discovery classes at Lockhart — I have been particularly worried/concerned about what will happen to the women in my classes in the long run. As Ginger put it: What worries me the most for them is the world “out there.” TBT graduates like Lisa, Dara, Liz, Margie – the list goes on – are living proof that there’s life (safe, sane, joyful, gratifying life) after incarceration for those who step up to the challenge and refuse to give up. I’m so proud of these resilient women and others like them. Thank you for sharing this article with the TBT community. I needed to read it to help me feel strong too.

    Reply
  9. As a new TBT facilitator at Lockhart prison, reading about Lisa’s journey just floors me. One thing that I do get concerned about for the women that I work with at Lockhart is what they might go through once released. I have confidence in their ability to rediscover themselves and transform their own views of what is possible in life, but what worries me the most for them is the world “out here”, because I’ve heard about the difficulties a convicted felon can face in finding employment, and the prejudices they can face from others. Hell, I’ve been one to assume all kinds of things about convicted felons, in my own past. So, Lisa’s story, her will and conviction to move ahead in her life, helps heal a part of me that worries about the world. Lisa is clearly an exceptional person in this world and I am grateful to get to know about her, and to be involved with TBT. I’m also grateful to hear about Mr. Moseley, and to be reminded that there are other Mr. Moseley’s in the world too. I just feel a sense of trust right now that I didn’t know was missing before I read the article. It’s that meaningful to me. Thank you.

    Reply
    • There are sooooo many Mr. Moseley’s out there if one just strps outside there comfort zones allows themselves to be vulnerable and ask for help..when I started college in 2012 I had a 6th grade education couldn’t do simple division I was soo intimadated and full of fear of the whole college experience BUT I stepped out and asked for help and I received it from literally EVERY professor and now I’m 2 semesters from graduating with a 3.875 GPA and a member of the Honor Society. …all because of the Mr. Moseley’s in my life….

      Reply
  10. I wept with pride & joy & memories of Lisa as I read this. Has she seen herself in our video made in Lockhart prison? When I saw her picture, smiling & confident and professional- I contrasted that with the gentle, lovely but VERY shy & quiet person I first saw at the orientation. I totally get how committed she has been & how hard she worked to achieve the highest and best she could imagine.

    Now I can’t wait to see what God will do next… What new opportunities & challenges she will meet head on & heart grounded. Thank you Lisa, for staying committed to your true self. Let your truth be told, with compassion & integrity. Your dear face shine as it did in class with encouragement to others as you listen respectfully to them. Your creativity be unleashed for the best uses! And the community of people who share your cherished values be made strong.

    Sent from my iPhone

    Reply

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