Julia Friedman '09
2019 Outstanding Young Alumna of the Year
Our latest Outstanding Young Alumna of the Year is driven by compassion and social justice. Over the past five years, Julia Friedman ’09 worked her way up from intern to Senior Director of Community Programs at Getting Out and Staying Out, while completing the 3,000 clinical hours required to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.
Getting Out and Staying Out (GOSO) is an innovative re-entry program serving young men during and after their incarceration in New York prisons and jails. “We provide three Es: education, employment, emotional well being,” Julia Friedman ’09 explains, “to 750 men a year.”
Julia works primarily with "men of color in New York who are not given the same resources as other people in the city, because they grew up in public housing or impoverished communities….These are guys who have done challenging things, but I don’t care,” she says. Rather, she acknowledges that these men often “had to make their own path, without support. The quickest way to do that is not always legal.”
GOSO’s curriculum is person-first and adaptive. When a newly-released participant initially visits GOSO, he meets with a Career Counselor and a Social Worker, like Julia, taking classes in “job readiness,” including “two weeks of resume building, career exploration, and interview skills.” GOSO helps with high school diplomas, GEDs, and college applications. Participants are also “strongly advised” to attend three elective workshops, including one called “Know Your Rights.”
The therapeutic component of GOSO’s program is especially powerful, Julia believes, "because it’s breaking down the why of trauma and supporting the guys with whatever they need." GOSO provides individual and group therapy, along with a weekly yoga and meditation class. “Now, when they can’t sleep at night, they know different breathing techniques.”
The recidivism rate proves GOSO’s compassionate, person-first model is a success. “Fewer than 15% of GOSO participants return to jail, as compared to a national average of 67% for their age group” (16–24).
As a social work intern, Julia began visiting a 17-year-old inmate at Rikers Island. (Distinguishing features of his case have been cut to retain privacy.) “The assistant DA on his case wanted to give him 14 years. He was 17. It would have been an enormous set back on his life.” Julia was able to meet with the ADA and the judge and alongside his lawyer advocate for a lesser, more appropriate sentence “We got him from 14 years down to 4 years.”
Her work didn’t stop there. “We have a correspondence program. I sent him a ton of books and mixtapes.” Creating a personal connection with this man helped him feel supported and open to GOSO’s program. “We engage them to prevent them from being involved in criminal activity.”
The result? “He got out two weeks ago and was just in my office. We don’t stop communicating and believing in these guys. We are here to support them, in a really holistic way.”
The GOSO guys recently took a pizza-making class with a law firm and visited a gallery in Chelsea that installed The O.G. Experience, an immersive “ show by and about formerly incarcerated artists.”
GOSO also partners with New York-based companies, like Goldman Sachs, Google, LinkedIn––and the Head-Royce alumni-run restaurant Dos Toros. In their business lunches, panel talks, mixers, and internships, people at these companies, in Julia’s words, “see that these GOSO men are fantastic and worthy of a second chance.”
Julia Friedman ’09 is working hard to broaden the networks of formerly-incarcerated men, fostering self-confidence and instilling job skills. We’re proud to present her with the award for 2019 Outstanding Young Alumna of the Year.
Julia Friedman '09; GOSO Participant; Mark Goldsmith, GOSO's Founder, President, and CEO; and two more GOSO participants