As a senior policy analyst in the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections’ Policy, Grants and Legislative Affairs Office, Bernard Avery ’15, ’19 wears many hats. He handles policies and legislation that support initiatives around rehabilitation, addressing numerous public policy issues and resulting in increased public safety. He also manages the state’s Second Chance Pell program, which provides funding for prisoners to earn college credits and degrees while they are incarcerated.

Avery’s desire to end what he calls the “dangerous cycle of mass incarceration without true rehabilitation” was inspired by his growing up in Philadelphia’s inner city. After seeing friends and family members have negative experiences with the criminal-justice system, he was looking for an “opportunity to make positive change and build better opportunities.”

Thanks in part to DelVal, he got that opportunity.

After graduating with a bachelor’s in counseling psychology and a minor in criminal justice at DelVal, Avery enrolled in the University’s Master of Public Policy (MPP) program. While in the MPP program, he interned at Curry College in suburban Boston and also engaged with Boston University’s prison education program, which offers inmates the chance to earn a bachelor's degree while incarcerated.

“My internship prepared me directly for my next opportunity with the PADOC,” Avery said. “It still amazes me how my experience in Boston was such a strong stepping stone for me in my field today.”

In addition, as an MPP student he also served as a graduate assistant for DelVal’s top 20 football team, for which he had played as an undergrad. As both a player and the linebackers coach, Avery found a brotherhood, and a home away from home.

“The football program was a great reflection and representation of DelVal, a family environment that works together and motivates each other to reach our goals,” he said. “At the same time, we’re always working to impact the campus community and the local community in a positive way -- [Coach] Duke Greco and his staff are very big on these principles.”

Avery was a deeply engaged student at DelVal. In addition to his time on the gridiron, he worked at the Center for Student Professional Development and Learning Support Services office, and was a member of the Counseling Psychology Club, Students for Diversity, the Stop the Hate program, and the Student Conduct Board. All of that, along with his studies and internships, prepared him for a career he is passionate about.

“I learned how to work with individuals from many different backgrounds, and with families, which is a very diverse experience,” Avery said. “Through coaching I learned how to be a role model and mentor and counsel young men to young adults. I learned how to recruit and network and connect with people on many levels. I learned how to professionally deal with tough situations and clients. I learned how to organize and conduct large groups. I learned strategies and tools on how to successfully run a program. I learned the budgeting aspect of running an organization.

“Everything that I have learned from this experience,” he added, “I use at my workplace today.”

Avery is big on learning from his experiences. It is something he advises all students to do.

“Take advantage of every opportunity you come across,” he said. “No opportunity is too big or too little. There is always something you can learn and take away from an opportunity that will prepare you for your future. It is all just a stepping stone to where you have set your overall goals and where you are destined to be.”

Avery has learned well. “Success,” he said, “is where preparation and opportunity meet.”