Jessica Bower, who just graduated with four degrees from CNM.

Faces of CNM: Jessica Bower

The true definition of a success story
June 14, 2018

A couple years back, Jessica Bower’s life spiraled out of control. She got divorced, addicted to drugs, involved in crime, and then put in jail. The day before she was arrested she also found out she was pregnant.

She was released to have her son, and her lawyers kept her out on condition she found work. Unfortunately, the only jobs she could find as someone who’d been incarcerated were too physically demanding, or forced her to work ludicrously long hours.

“One job at a gas station required 14-hour days, six days a week, and that was not sustainable with my newborn son,” she says.

But then Jessica came across Saranam, a transitional housing program for homeless families here in Albuquerque. She and her son were taken in and one of the requirements was that she go to school full-time. Jessica had previously attended CNM so she decided to return and dove right in.

With the help of programs like TRIO Student Support Services, which serves first-generation college-bound students, and tutors like Jimi Sanchez, who often works with students who’ve been previously incarcerated, Jessica was able to graduate with four associate degrees in two years: Human Services, Sociology, Psychology, and Liberal Arts. She’s also just one credit shy of her Substance Abuse Counselor Certificate and one credit shy of her Criminology degree.

“School was important in many different ways,” she says. “It gave me a path forward, but for the first time in my life I didn’t have to dwell on the fact that I was a felon, or had been homeless and addicted. I was able to just focus on being a student and that gave me a lot of confidence.”

Jessica is now onto the next chapter. This fall she’s enrolling in Highlands University to get her bachelor’s in Social Work. She also has a job at the SAFE House, a domestic violence shelter here in Albuquerque. Life is still busy—she’ll be going to school at night, then working the graveyard shift at the SAFE House—but she’s used to a crazy schedule and not worried about moving forward.

Eventually, she’d like to start her own non-profit to help people who’ve faced situations like hers. Those around her, like Jimi Sanchez from TRIO, have no doubt she’ll be successful.

“Jessica really owns her past and it’s obvious that she’s moving forward in a way that will have a huge impact on her community,” he says. “All I can say is ‘you go girl!”