Condensed and edited for clarity.
Noelle Lagueux-Alvarez: Would you please share your professional background with our readers?
Alexis Bell: I went to Berry College as a Gate of Opportunity Scholar and graduated with a B.S. in economics. My scholarship kept me very busy at Berry as I was required to work 20 hours per week while school was in session and 40 hours per week during the summer. I met those hours by doing research with professors, serving as the student supervisor of the catering office, and I was a student account officer for financial aid for my four years there. After graduating, I did an internship with Norfolk Southern in the revenue accounting office and then I joined the AOC.
NL-A: What do you do for the Judicial Council/AOC?
Alexis Bell: I’m a research analyst. Essentially, I help to synthesize the caseload data submitted by Superior Courts so that the data may be reported for further use, for instance, by the Judicial Workload Assessment Committee.
NL-A:How long have you been at the Judicial Council/AOC?
Alexis Bell: I’ve been here since November 2022. So, that’s about nine months.
NL-A: What do you hope to achieve in your position?
Alexis Bell: I’ve always had a special interest in government and working with data. So, this job marries those two interests beautifully. I want to continue to gain more skills and to learn more about the court system. Before I started at the AOC, I knew the Georgia court system was complicated, but now that I’m here, I realize it’s even more complicated than I even imagined. And, in the future, I’d like to work with more specialized populations.
NL-A Is there anything you like in particular about working for the Judicial Council/AOC?
Alexis Bell: When I was a teenager, I had to go to court because I was in foster care, but I never really understood what was going on there. Now, I visit courts as part of my job, and I understand so much more. I love learning about the court system. I also like working with so many different people to solve problems. When you pursue a career in data science and data analytics, you must be willing to dig in. And, that’s me. I like digging in to fix problems.
NL-A: Thank you for sharing about being in foster care.
Alexis Bell: You’re welcome. I talk about it all the time. It doesn’t make me uncomfortable at all. I went into foster care at 14 and stayed until I aged out at 18.
NL-A: Wow. What an inspiring story of thriving after aging out of foster care. That is an amazing accomplishment, Alexis.
Alexis Bell: Yes, a lot of us don’t make it.
NL-A: One mission of the AOC is to support the Supreme Court of Georgia’s Committee on Justice for Children. Among other things, that Committee, which is chaired by Justice Bethel, seeks to improve outcomes for children in foster care. Would you share more about your story? For instance, how did you navigate going to college all on your own?
Alexis Bell: It was tough, but I got help from one of my CASAs (Court Appointed Special Advocate). At first it was very overwhelming, and I didn’t know what I was going to do. But, from an early age, I always knew I was going to go to college. Even though we were very poor growing up, and homeless a lot of my life, my mom instilled in us that we should go to college. So, despite all the odds, I was determined to go to college. I just didn’t know how I was going to pay for it. My high school counseling office wasn’t very helpful, so I asked my CASA for help and she set me up with an outside private counselor, who helped me find scholarship opportunities. I was fortunate that Berry allowed me to move into the dorms early. They also permitted me to stay on campus year-round. Housing got rough during the pandemic when everyone needed to leave campus, but I was able to stay with extended family for a bit. I was homeless for a while, too, until I was able to move back into the dorms. It was rough when I didn’t know where I was going to go, but I got through it.
NL-A: Are you able to pinpoint anything about yourself that allowed you to thrive despite all the challenges you faced as a teen who aged out of foster care?
Alexis Bell: I knew that I didn’t have any other option but to succeed. I know that sounds crazy, but I just really wanted it. I really wanted to be in college. I really wanted to be at Berry. I would tell myself, “I want to be here. I know I can do it.” I knew the opportunity at Berry was all that I had, so I decided to try really, really hard. Also, I was really honest with myself. I knew that I didn’t want to go into a trade or join the workforce without a college degree. So, I set my mind to it. Not many people encouraged me to go to college. Often people told me to go into a trade or to start working, but I thought to myself, “if I do that, in a couple of years, I won’t be able to pay for anything!” So, I pursued a college degree despite the challenges.
NL-A: I think you are very wise and hardworking. So, how is everything now?
Alexis Bell: Oh, it’s really good! I live on my own in Brookhaven and I take care of pretty much everything on my own. It’s a little embarrassing, I’m just learning to drive. They’ve changed the policy, but back when I was in a group home in foster care, they weren’t allowed to teach us how to drive. So, I’m learning to drive now and saving up for a car. It’s funny, I often feel behind my peers—learning to drive in my mid-twenties—but in other ways—living on my own and having a large savings account—I feel more advanced than my peers. I think my peers could do what I have done, but I suppose it is not a necessity for most of them. And, I don’t wish that on anyone. I wish for every person, when they graduate college, that they have somewhere to go. But, as for me, I had to make sure I had everything squared away or I could have ended up homeless again.
NL-A: You have a beautiful story, Alexis, and you should be very proud of yourself. Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Alexis Bell: I really like working for the Judicial Council/AOC and life is pretty chill right now, which is all I’ve ever wanted. Stability and calm.
NL-A: That is so great. We’re happy you are here with us at the AOC. Now, for a dramatic shift, what do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Alexis Bell: I like to skateboard.
NL-A: I did not see that coming.
Alexis Bell: People always say that, but it’s really cool. I also like to hike. I used to hike every Sunday when I was in college. Berry has a huge outdoor culture and a big, beautiful campus. So, in addition to academics, college also taught me that I like to hike and to go whitewater rafting. I learned a lot there. I’m really glad I went.