Jamie Rykse

Jamie is a woman from Grand Rapids, Michigan. She had a difficult and traumatic childhood, and became homeless at the age of 14. She couldn’t bear living at home and decided to crash with her friends. Eventually, she ran out of options and tried to call her mother in an attempt to return home – but her mother hung up on her. From then on, she slept on the streets and in abandoned buildings, and became addicted to crack cocaine. At 17, she spent 4 days in jail for retail fraud. Jamie was eventually sent to prison on a home invasion charge at the age of 24. While in prison, Jamie worked hard to get her GED. However, after being released at 25, she found herself lost with no family or financial support. She enrolled in college classes and used the financial aid she received to purchase drugs to sell.

Jaime started volunteering at the Heartside Ministry GED program to help other students. She used Heartside Ministry as an escape and means of controlling herself. She would stay there all day, volunteering and helping wherever she could, all in an effort to stay away from crack cocaine. Before Jamie arrived, the program had been failing, and sometimes sessions needed to be canceled because of poor attendance and minimal resources. Jaime, driven by a passion for teaching that had blossomed during her time in prison, begged to be allowed to run the GED program for Heartside Ministry. After Jamie took over, the program flourished, and she has helped many people with their literacy skills. Jamie has influenced hundreds of people for the better. She became a full-time paid employee, and is working toward her college degree in criminal justice and social work. She has acted as a national speaker on behalf of the Michigan Council on Crime and Delinquency program Youth Behind Bars and has spoken on panels, describing her personal experiences as an incarcerated youth. Jamie has defied the odds stacked against her and used her circumstances to become an inspiration to many in the city’s Heartside community.