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Criminal Justice student focuses on helping kids set course for brighter futures

Jonathan on street

Jonathan Mack ’21 was always drawn to the evening news. It didn’t matter if he was tuning into CNN, MSNBC’s popular Lockup docuseries, or another complex crime program—he was glued to the story. But it wasn’t the crime itself that caught Mack’s attention. He wanted to know what was going to happen in the courtroom. “I remember from an early age that I wanted to be a lawyer,” he says. “There was something really intriguing to me about the whole process.”

The Lanham, Maryland, native decided to study Criminal Justice at York College of Pennsylvania as a first step in pursuing his career goals. What he found in the small classrooms and tightknit community was a slew of opportunities to dive deeper into the topics that interested him most.

From classes that study serial killers to Criminology and Death Investigation, Mack always found a class that kept him engaged in the program. It was his Juvenile Delinquency and Intro to Criminal Justice classes that led him to narrow in on his career path: working to rehabilitate juveniles in the court system.

Programs that help

What if the court system could create programs that help instead of hurt juveniles who find themselves in trouble? That question inspired Mack to take a closer look at juvenile law. The summer before his sophomore year, he had an internship in Washington, D.C., working directly with juveniles in the system who were put through rehabilitation programs rather than given prison sentences. “That perspective really intrigued me,” he says. “I felt I could give something back to kids in that position.”

Mack also drew on his experience working at a camp in Washington, D.C. The Headfirst Summer Camp program gave him an opportunity to work in the sports division, where he managed about 20 counselors who oversaw 100 campers. Here, he developed his skills to be a leader and taught campers to work toward their goals.

“It’s really rewarding to consciously teach someone how to grow,” he says. “I was able to help them learn how to be a team player and to work on things they might not be the best at. I just loved putting a smile on someone’s face.”

An exciting future

As Mack prepares for his final year at York College, he’s looking forward to exploring law school opportunities. As a Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice Ambassador, he also hopes to get incoming students excited about their futures. As an ambassador, he leads campus tours and builds interest in the programs.

“There are unique classes that York College offers, and they don’t exist at other schools,” he says. “I know my education has prepared me for the next step. I hope others coming here realize that opportunity and take advantage of it.”