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Monday, July 8, 2013

Feature #2: Starcia Ague

This amazing young lady has quite a story.  When one goes through all that she has gone through, and is still eventually able to, as some Americans love to say, “pull herself up by the bootstraps,” and not only that, but make a difference in the world, you’ve got a premium jewel on your hands! Her name is Starcia Ague. She was born in Fort Lewis, Washington (State). Her mother had her when she was 15. When you ask Starcia to describe her childhood she will honestly tell you rape, abuse, neglect, and abandonment characterized her young life. Her father produced meth and her mother became addicted to the drug.

Starcia and her mother would always move—sometimes it would be a friend or family member’s house and other times it would be a homeless shelter. By the time Starcia was 11, her mother kicked her out of the house and Starcia moved in with her dad.

Though it was a complex living situation, for a brief period of time Starcia was able to feel a sense of stability. Her father had the money to buy her clothes for school and school supplies, and therefore Starcia was able to go to school on a regular basis. One day, her father’s house was raided. She was taken to the emergency room as the property was deemed hazardous and her father was arrested. Bail was set for $20,000 cash only. Her father skipped bail and told her he would be back for her, but he never did come back.

Form that point on Starcia’s young life was filled with numerous foster homes and crime. At age of 15 she spent 214 days in detention with six pending Class A felonies. She took plea for three and got sentenced to “juvenile life.” From ages 15-21 she spent in jail.

The turning point in Starcia’s life takes place here—at Naselle Youth Camp (one of the three prisons in Washington for juveniles). Starcia describes it as, “…An amazing beautiful African-American woman came to the jail to give her testimony.” Her mother was in an asylum, and she had also endured a life of rape and abuse. Starcia was so amazed with her story that that day, she decided to accept God into her life at 17 years old.

Knowing that education would be a way out for her, she inquired about taking college classes but the prison administrators laughed at her. Starcia did some research of her own and discovered that, “for every kid who doesn’t graduate the prison gets funding for, so they didn’t want you to graduate in prison.” Starcia being the intelligent young lady that she is, made a deal with the institution—“I’ll graduate a year later if you let me take college classes.” When she was released on her 21st birthday, July 23, 2008, she was five credits away from earning her AA. Immediately she transferred to Washington State University and got her degree in Criminal Justice in 2010.

Starcia is the only juvenile in state of Washington to get a pardon from the governor, which she received on February 17, 2011. She is also a recipient of the 2009 Spirit of Youth Award, which gave her $1,000 towards school.

Today she is the Program Coordinator at The Division of Public Behavioral Health and Justice Policy at the University of Washington. There, she is in engaged in the selection process of mental health training materials for juvenile justice applications in connection with the MacArthur Foundation “Models for Change” project. Starcia also was their 2012 “Champion for Change” recipient. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-QD5qHtML2E

In addition, Starcia is working on passing a bill in the state of Washington, so that young juveniles’ records will not have their adjudications available to anyone via electronic dissemination. The state of Washington often sells these records to corporations and individual proprietors, making it one of only three states in the entire nation that make income off of prison records and Starcia is driven to put a stop to it. Otherwise, once juveniles are released, this makes it nearly impossible for them to get a job anywhere, which leads them inevitably right back into the prison system.


It’s worthy to note that Harvard Educational Review Journal published some of Starcia’s work about system reform and being resilient. Starcia would like to go to Harvard to study in the near future. Based on the amazing things she’s done already, I believe without a doubt that she will get to Harvard! To read more about Starcia, please visit www.starciaague.org.

Written by Yasmine Arrington, Elon University '15

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