Program helps young offenders dress for success upon release

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - On a rainy Friday morning, Mia Hidalgo took her first steps free in 193 days.

"It broke my heart,” Mia’s mother Annette said through tears. “You never want to be away from your child or have them in this type of environment, but they make mistakes, and you just got to love them through it."

Mia says bad decisions landed her behind bars.

"I had to sit and reflect and think about what I had done,” Mia said. “It was very eye-opening for me, and I took this experience very serious. I try to take what I need and leave the rest with every situation I'm in, but this one was defining for me."

This day, though, is about a fresh start — thanks to a clothing program the facility runs to make sure young men and women are dressed for success as they transition back into society.

"If you need a suit, we got that. If you need a dress, if you need shoes, we address all those microscopic, basic needs so that they're not starting from the bottom,” Kenneth Davis, coordinator for the KJCC’s Mentoring for Success program said. “They have a platform they can start from, and gives them a better opportunity to be successful, and not return back to the correctional facility."

Mia plans to study welding at Washburn Tech. Her education will be partially funded by a $2,000 dollar scholarship she won at the correctional complex's high school graduation this winter.

And she'll do it in style.

"She's a young lady that's full of talent, she has purpose, she has meaning, and she deserves to have every opportunity to be successful,” Davis said.

"New beginnings,” Mia said. “It was just awesome. You're starting something new, so you got to be dressed for something new."

Davis says KJCC is looking for mentors and clothing donations. For more information, email Davis at Kenneth.davis@ks.gov, or Emily Steimel at Emily.steimel@ks.gov.