Anastacia’s story is one of perseverance and determination. The child of a teenage mother who was in and out of the foster care system, Anastacia’s early childhood was rooted in instability. Because Anastacia’s mother was not able to provide for her, Anastacia was raised by her aunt and her grandmother. As a result of her frequent moves and the obstacles she faced, Anastacia developed a resentment towards the world. As a teenager, Anastacia started getting into fights and quickly found herself hanging out with the wrong crowd.
In 2018, at the age of 16, a fight broke out involving Anastacia and her friends. What started as a petty school disagreement escalated into a big fight with Anastacia facing Assault and Gang Assault charges---each charge carried up to seven years in state prison. In addition to the charges she was facing, Anastacia found out that she was pregnant.
Anastacia’s Legal Aid attorney, Donna Hankin, saw tons of potential in her and knew that Avenues for Justice would be the perfect program for her. Having worked with Elsie Flores, an AFJ Court Advocate and successful graduate of the program, Donna brought Anastacia to AFJ’s courthouse offices to meet Elsie and AFJ’s Executive Director, Angel Rodriguez. Anastacia quickly demonstrated that she was willing to do what she had to do to resolve her legal matters in order to provide for her son.
Over the next year and a half, Anastacia attended our Lower East Side community center twice a week, participating in AFJ’s HIRE UP workshops. AFJ matched Anastacia with a tutor to help her raise her grades in school. To ensure that Anastacia was able to focus on the workshops, AFJ accommodated her young child throughout the process. Elsie also referred her to a therapist to equip her with the tools needed to navigate her feelings.
Anastacia is a shining example that second chances do work. She passed all her classes with high marks, became an outspoken leader at our center, flourished from her therapy, and excelled as a new mother.
During one of Anastacia’s last court hearings in November 2019, Elsie wrote a letter to Anastacia’s judge describing her as a “respectful and smart young woman who has the full potential to become anything she would like to be in life. Anastacia is a prime example of someone who works hard and is responsible. AFJ is proud of Anastacia’s growth and all that she has accomplished.” By the end of 2019, Anastacia was adjudicated Youthful Offender (YO) status and Conditionally Discharged to Avenues for Justice for three years---resulting in her record being sealed.
In Spring 2021, Anastacia graduated from high school and by the fall had enrolled in college. Today, Anastacia has dreams of being a nurse or an EMT and owning a house in Pennsylvania where her son can enjoy the outdoors.
Avenues for Justice is delighted to honor Anastacia at our Second Chance Experience next Thursday, October 20th with the Second Chance Award for successfully turning her life around. Please help us in congratulating Anastacia by supporting our Second Chance Experience here!