Brothers In Arms Veterans Day Celebration Nov. 11
UHD Students Give Back Through Community Service
By Sheryl E. Taylor
Since 2018, UHD Alumna Heide Laser (‘14) has collaborated with a Senior Seminar class inside the Harris County Jail system as part of its Brother In Arms Program.
In celebration of Veterans Day on Nov. 11, students in Dr. Judith Harris’ 4370 Senior Seminar class will host and serve a special lunch to program participants at the Harris County Joint Processing Center.
Laser, who serves as a Chaplaincy Case Manager/Program Coordinator for the Brothers in Arms Program, earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice (magna cum laude), and was a student of Harris’ Senior Seminar class in 2014. In her current role, she coordinates volunteers, community partners, and UHD students to provide veteran-specific resources to meet the needs of the extensive veteran services program, Brothers in Arms.
The program relies heavily on volunteers and community partners to provide education and resources for the veteran participants via a structured schedule. Each semester UHD students assist with numerous day-to-day support functions of the program. In return, students receive hands-on service-learning experience in the criminal justice system, including interacting directly with the inmate population as well as employees within the Harris County Sheriff’s Office.
“Through this collaboration, I went from being a student in the program to educating Senior Seminar students about the realities of the criminal justice system, corrections, and career opportunities in law enforcement,” emphasized Laser. “They benefit from observing staff interactions with the individuals we serve. These students are the future of the criminal justice system, and their future careers will benefit from the experience gained while serving in this program.”
Harris sees this program as a win-win for Gator students.
“The most significant takeaway of this program is that our students are improving their skills while maintaining academic rigor. Moreover, students who have felt disenfranchised because of complicated backgrounds understand that having a ‘lived experience’ is a plus when working with justice-involved individuals returning to their communities,” said Dr. Judith Harris, Associate Professor of Criminal Justice and Associate Director of the Bayou Connection Program in the College of Public Service. “Most of our criminal justice students either work or will work in the justice arena. Service learning is challenging, exhausting, and time-consuming. Students enrolled in CJ 4370 are a credit to UHD and are always determined, dedicated, and Downtown Ambassadors for change.”
Laser added, “This class was a priceless experience that really put things into perspective when I was a student. It changed my career trajectory by connecting with something I’m very passionate about … helping people.”
“This partnership is not only responsible for providing students excellent service-learning opportunities, but it also offers employment in some cases upon graduation,” said Dr. Ashley Blackburn, Associate Dean and Professor of Criminal Justice. “We are very proud of this partnership and specifically the work that our Senior Seminar students do every semester. We are also very appreciative of the work that Dr. Harris and Mrs. Laser have put into organizing the class and projects for the students.”
Laser has big plans for the Brothers in Arms Program, “We hope this collaboration can be replicated at correctional facilities and universities across the country.