Lifelong Learners: Taking a Stand
Influenced by her career as a paralegal, Ginger L. Jenkins ’11 is now an advocate for plaintiffs and their families in the judicial system.
Ginger L. Jenkins. Photo credit: Carlos Amoedo.
The testimony was almost too much for Ginger L. Jenkins ’11 to bear, but it was her job to listen to every word in the trial of a man accused of sexually abusing a 12-year-old girl. The defendant sat stone-faced, showing no remorse.
Jenkins was serving as a volunteer for CourtWatch Florida, a nonprofit that sends observers into courtrooms to evaluate legal proceedings related to domestic violence and child abuse.
Though it was upsetting to hear the details of the case, Jenkins knew she was in the right place. With her 20-year career as a paralegal and her BS in Psychology from Walden, she was uniquely positioned to go beyond the legal details and understand the emotions behind the case. “I wanted justice for this child,” Jenkins says. “I knew I had to promote positive social change.”
To that end, Jenkins is back at Walden pursuing her MS in Forensic Psychology with a specialization in Psychology and Legal Systems. When she graduates in 2013, Jenkins’ goal is to work as a criminal profiler to help solve difficult and cold-case crimes or serve as an anti-terrorism investigator. “Increasing my knowledge will help me work with adult and juvenile offenders, conduct assessments, and interpret findings for the criminal judicial system,” she says.
Jenkins, a first-generation college student from Orlando, had initially planned to become a nurse. But that focus changed when she took a part-time job as a legal secretary and was inspired by litigators who brought domestic abusers to trial. “I found myself intrigued by their ability to challenge the court and find justice for the client,” she says.
She went on to launch her own business in 2004, Global Legal Resolution Services, a paralegal service that assists major law firms, solo practitioners, and the private sector in preparing for trials, developing new legal departments, and working with employees to improve productivity.
But as she spent more time working on cases and being present in the courtroom, she realized there was more to the legal profession than briefs, proceedings, and arguments. In one case, she helped a rebellious and self-destructive 17-year-old girl mend her relationship with her parents and enroll in college to study nursing. “I encounter a lot of families going through difficulties,” she says. “It’s natural to become involved.”
As a result, Jenkins decided to pursue her undergraduate degree in psychology. After graduating in 2011, she began volunteering with CourtWatch Florida, an opportunity she found through the Walden Service Network.
“The moment I realized my academic work would positively impact the community I serve was when I volunteered as a court watcher,” she says. “I go into a courtroom, sit through hearings on domestic violence, and analyze whether everything is being handled appropriately. Is the judge paying attention to and addressing the victim and the offender? Is a court advocate present to support the defendant?”
She knew she could be a better court observer and play a more important role in the legal process if she obtained her MS in Forensic Psychology. The field involves practicing psychology as a science within the criminal court system. Days are spent offering therapy to families in the court system, investigating child abuse reports, and evaluating child custody agreements.
“Forensic psychology is used in so many different places, like education systems, corporations, and law enforcement and corrections,” she says. “I think a lot of people get stuck where they are, and there’s not a lot to motivate them. Walden continues to encourage me. My goal is to do the same for others.”
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