My Mom, My Hero: Celebrating the Accomplishments of a Strong Woman

by Katie Ishizaka

Written by Jahzara Norris 

My name is Jahzara, and I am the daughter of the new Director of Labyrinth Made Goods. I have been asked to write blog posts for the next few months, and I couldn’t be happier to agree. You may have seen me around the office or in one of our videos. I may have been manning the camera, and you didn’t even know it! I have been around much of the goings on at Labyrinth Made Goods. I have spent a great deal of time helping my mom out around the office and even helped write a teen Strive program. The point is, I’ve seen firsthand the good that everyone, especially my mom, has been doing working at the YWCA. I am so proud that she is being put in the position to run Labyrinth Made Goods. I’ve seen how far she’s come through this job, and I’ve been with her every step of the way. I can confidently say that good things will continue to come with the help of the Labyrinth team and that the McClean County community will continue to benefit greatly. 

Candice and her daughter Jahzara

I have seen through my mom’s experience the damage incarceration can do, especially to young women, which is why I know that the Strive program is an essential part of mitigating that damage. These women have their life dreams cut off because of a criminal record, which reflects an old version of themselves. As a teenager, I know that the person you may have been four years ago can be completely different from who you are today. A study from the Sentencing Project shows that “though just 15% of youth incarcerated on a typical day are girls, they make up a much higher proportion of those incarcerated for the lowest level offenses. Thirty-four percent of youth in placement for status offenses, such as truancy and curfew violations, are girls. More than half of youth incarcerated for running away are girls.” These small offenses lead to big consequences later in life. For example, I remember being around ten years old, sitting in the back of the Chinese restaurant where my mom worked, waiting for her shift to end. I knew my mother was capable of more than stirring stir-fry, but what I didn’t know was that she was being held back because of a criminal record. Thanks to the YWCA, she is now reaching her full potential as LMG Director, where I can see she finally feels fulfilled, plus all our clothes no longer smell like grease. 

Many women who have gone through the program share similar stories. Labyrinth gives women the chance to redeem themselves and gather the necessities to get their dreams back on track. With every candle that LMG sells, we support that mission and help another woman to reach their goals. I am thankful that my mom and I get to be a part of the journey to create opportunity and empower women.