Hello! I am Juan Ramon Riojas and I call Woolmarket, Mississippi home. In Fall 2020, I applied and was accepted into law school. In May 2021, I graduated from the University of Mississippi Lott Leadership Institute and Honors College with a major in Public Policy and minors in Arabic and Philosophy. While I was excited about law school, I was apprehensive of diving straight back into school. I decided to search for opportunities that would allow me to serve and become a more well-rounded individual.
The Johnson Service Corps (JSC) stood out for three main reasons: the partner service organizations, administrative support, and personal development opportunities. My partner service organization is a policy advocacy organization, the Center for Responsible Lending. There, I work on the research and policy teams to first learn about the experience of people who are underserved by our current financial system and then to advocate for constituent-informed policies.
Andrew and Christina, the directors of JSC, are wonderful at providing support when needed. They are responsive listeners and people I would want to be in the trenches with. They help JSC corps members learn and have fun, while ensuring we are serving the community.
During orientation, I was impressed with the various personal development opportunities JSC offered including the Racial Equity Institute’s “Phase 1” workshop. Other training such as “consensus building” and “active listening” have informed the way I interact with my housemates.
Intentional community is a piece of the JSC puzzle that did not initially attract me to the program, but only because I did not understand it. Living with four other people in the Durham house has been splendid. We have had fun bonding over food (cooking and eating), sports, and Ted Lasso. Through honest communication we have built community trust that empowers us to navigate obstacles ranging from the pandemic to weekly grocery lists.
My coworkers, program directors, and housemates have all contributed to my development as a more emotionally-aware individual, which is perhaps the development I am most proud of. As a law student next year and a lawyer some years later, I will refer to the lessons I have gained during my time at JSC like an atlas. Leaving Mississippi was difficult; however, I am confident the experience I am gaining this year and in law school will empower me to later give back to Mississippi.