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Once Homeless, a New College Graduate Looks to the Future

Silhouette of graduate in front of black and white stripes

PBS NewsHour
By Zachary Green

When we last spoke with Jaime Waldron earlier in April, she was a homeless college student worried about completing her online studies before graduation. Now, Waldron has officially graduated from the University of Massachusetts with a degree in criminal justice. She recently spoke with NewsHour Weekend's Zachary Green about her hopes for the future amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

This past April, we reported on homeless students caught in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. One of those students was Jaime Waldron, a criminal justice major at the University of Massachusetts.

At the time, Waldron was being provided year-round housing on the UMass Lowell campus and she was worried about balancing her online coursework with her job at a local grocery store.

Today, Waldron is officially a college graduate.

NewsHour Weekend's Zachary Green caught up with Waldron before her graduation last week. Read the transcript below or watch the segment on the PBS News Hour website.

Zachary Green: How does it feel to be a college graduate now?

Jaime Waldron: It's kind of scary because I'm not ready to be an adult yet. But it feels really good, though, too, knowing that I can go and get a full time job and have, like, the credentials to get a full time job in the field that I studied versus just working part time jobs and still attending school.

Zachary Green: How do your job prospects look now? Are you worried about pursuing a career when so many people are out of work and so many people aren't hiring right now?

Jaime Waldron: The good thing about the field that I studied is that COVID-19 isn't going to, like, stop the hiring. You can't work remotely in most criminal justice jobs. I've talked to someone about a job potentially in the Department of Youth Services and then I also just got another email about an interview, working in one of the prisons in Massachusetts, and so I'm not too worried right now.

I really want to work with the, like, reentry services, like, mental health services where they're gonna be living in, like, halfway houses, things like that, just setting them up for success for when they are no longer in prison.

Zachary Green: So you've been working in a local grocery store all this time. What has that experience been like for you during the COVID-19 pandemic?

Jaime Waldron: I was really worried at first about getting sick and not being able to work or getting someone else that I know sick. Now that the face coverings are required, it makes me feel a lot better and more comfortable that like everyone's taking the necessary steps towards protecting themselves and protecting others.

Now people are being more conscious about shopping and when they're shopping and if it's absolutely necessary, which makes me feel better.

Zachary Green: So last time we spoke with you, you were homeless and you were being provided housing by UMass Lowell. Once you leave the college, what's your housing situation gonna be like?

Jaime Waldron: Before the pandemic started, I had already signed a lease for an apartment with two of my friends in Lowell, actually just down the street from where I live now. I'll be living there, starting– like full time starting between June 1st or June 7th, depending when I fully move in and I will no longer be living on campus.

Zachary Green: How does it feel after having after being housing insecure for such a long time?

Jaime Waldron: It feels really good knowing that, like, it's my– like, where I live and it's my house. My legal address at first was my aunt's house where I didn't live. And then it was the school. And so now it'll be funny to see it and be like, oh, yeah, that's the apartment that I pay for and the apartment that I actually live in full time.

Zachary Green: How are you feeling about your future right now? Are you worried that this situation might stretch out? Are you– are you more hopeful?

Jaime Waldron: I would definitely say I'm more hopeful now than probably when this all first started. I feel like even if this pandemic stretches out, as long as I have my job as long as I have my job or hopefully my full time job, too, I am not too worried about losing my new housing situation because I know that I'll have a job that will pay me.

Zachary Green: Jaime Waldron, thank you so much for joining us and congratulations on graduating.

Jaime Waldron: No problem. Thank you so much.