By Laurie McLaughlin
If just a couple of things in his life had happened differently, says Jonathon Arellano-Jackson ’10, he could have easily been in the position that some of his clients are in right now. “Just one or two events can have a dramatic effect on how your life goes,” he says, reflecting on some minor infractions in his youth.
Arellano-Jackson is an attorney representing juveniles for the public defender’s office in San Bernardino County. “It’s pretty intense. You’re dealing with parents and youth who are in the most challenging and difficult time in their lives,” he says. “You’re catching them at their lowest, and it’s never as simple as just ‘criminal and victim,’ like it appears on television.”
Jonathon, who earned bachelor’s degrees in government and race and ethnic studies at Redlands, and his wife, Raquel Arellano-Jackson ’10, both work to help kids in severe circumstances find a better path in life. Jonathon and Raquel met during their college days while she was working at the Boys and Girls Club in Redlands, and he was volunteering there. Community activism and spending time with youth brought the couple together, and their shared enthusiasm for helping kids has shaped their careers.
A Proudian Scholar, Raquel earned a bachelor’s in psychology and English literature at Redlands and is currently a clinician at South Coast Community Services in Colton serving county school districts as a counselor. “I was passionate about youth before I met him, and I’m sure he would say the same thing,” she says. “We met because of the Boys and Girls Club, but we were involved in the same things. I was in WRW [Wadada Wa Rangi Wengi] and he was in RYG [Rangi Ya Giza], and because of the volunteering we were doing, we would’ve found each other some way or another.”
After graduation, they both moved to Washington, D.C., where Jonathon served with Teach for America and earned a master’s in education at George Mason University. Raquel worked with the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital during the national organization’s 100th anniversary celebration. Both positions inspired each of them to pursue more education and fine-tune the goals they had for their life’s work.
“As a grad student, I realized that doing therapy was an option, and I did a few volunteer positions at schools, and I loved it,” says Raquel, who earned her master’s in social welfare at UC Berkeley in 2014.
“While working in Teach for America, I had a lot of kids who were in the dependency system, which includes abused and neglected kids, and kids in foster care or who had parents in the criminal justice system,” says Jonathon. “So, I got interested in going to law school and advocating for youth in some capacity.” He enrolled in Gonzaga University’s School of Law and earned a juris doctorate in 2015.
The couple, whose engagement photos were taken on the U of R campus, married in May 2014 and moved back “home” to Redlands last summer—she is from San Bernardino, and he grew up in Bakersfield. “Our work is very similar, and I would say we definitely feed off of each other,” says Jonathon. “So, it’s cool for us to come back and serve in this community where we first met.”