From Incarceration to Inspiration: Clarissa’s Journey of Redemption and Empowerment

July 26, 2023

By Laasya Gadde, Bank of America Student Leader

In a world where second chances are often elusive, Clarissa story shines as a testament to the transformative power of education and opportunity. After spending 3 ½ years in Baylor Women’s Prison, Clarissa’s life took an extraordinary turn when she found hope and purpose through an outreach program that operates within the prison system. Today, she stands as a symbol of inspiration, having overcome her past and embraced a brighter future as a valued member of the Food Bank of Delaware’s Culinary School. 

Clarissa’s passion for learning and culinary arts began to take shape during her time in prison. Dr. Bonnet, the head of education, recognized her potential and introduced her to HOPES (Hospitality Opportunities for People Re-entering Society) Program coordinator, Briyana Freeman. HOPES is a partnership with the Food Bank, Delaware Restaurant Association and National Restaurant Association’s Educational Foundation’s, designed to connect adults of all ages with current or previous justice-involvement to career opportunities in the restaurant, foodservice, and hospitality industry.

Seeing a chance for reform in her life, Clarissa eagerly grasped the opportunity and enrolled in the program upon her release. The Food Bank’s Culinary School offered her a new lease on life, where she could pursue her dreams and find a sense of purpose she had long yearned for. 

Clarissa firmly believes that education is the cornerstone of personal reform. Whether it is through traditional college education or specialized programs like the one she attended, Clarissa advocates for the importance of continuous learning. She believes that providing more educational opportunities for those in the prison system is key to breaking the cycle of recidivism. With better education and skills, she believes that individuals can transform their lives, enhance self-esteem, and build a brighter future for themselves and their families. The Food Bank’s Culinary School became a life-changing experience for Clarissa. Through hands-on learning and the apprentice program, she not only honed her culinary skills but also gained valuable insights into financial management and various pathways to success. The program’s comprehensive approach empowered her to bridge the gap between her past and her future. 

Clarissa’s journey extends far beyond her own transformation. She firmly believes that breaking the cycle of incarceration requires providing opportunities and education to individuals seeking a fresh start. By becoming a part of the Food Bank of Delaware, Clarissa now works towards inspiring others to recognize their potential and seek positive change in their lives. 

Currently employed at the Hyatt Hotel in Newark, Clarissa is eagerly awaiting an opportunity to participate in the apprentice program there. Her goal is to showcase the skills she has acquired at the Food Bank and use her story as a catalyst for change. “I really hope to be on a Ted Talk one day,” Clarissa states.  Through speaking engagements, she hopes to reach out to others facing similar challenges, letting them know that opportunities do exist, and that they too can embrace a new beginning. 

Clarissa journey from the prison system to the Food Bank of Delaware’s Culinary School is a remarkable tale of redemption, resilience, and determination. Her unwavering belief in the power of education and the opportunities it brings has allowed her to transform her life and become an inspiration to others. As Clarissa continues to forge ahead, she shines a light on the importance of empowering individuals through education and second chances, believing that the Food Bank is truly a “miracle-building.”


  • Marvin Parker says:

    Beautiful story and yes I wish her much success

  • Cheryl Charles Ed.D. says:

    Congratulations to Clarissa, Dr. Boney, the Food Bank of Delaware and all those involved in being the change agent needed in this journey. You rock!

  • Sheila says:

    Clarissa is the embodiment of resilience and determination. This article doesn’t state it, but her determination is rooted in Faith in the Lord. Programs like this one will continue to make a difference as it grows.

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