Adolescent Diversion Program Spotlight: Shannon Gielow

October 3, 2023 - Shelly DeJong

Shannon Gielow stands on the shoreline with water behind her. She smiles at the camera while wearing a tan and black jacket.Shannon Gielow is a 2023 MSU graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology with minors in Youth and Society and Peace and Justice Studies. During her time at MSU, Shannon was involved with the Adolescent Diversion Program (ADP) which fueled her drive to make large-scale policy changes in the juvenile justice system. She sat down with us to talk about her time in the ADP, her hopes for the future, and what advice she has to other psychology majors. 


How has the Adolescent Diversion Program impacted you? 

This program has impacted me by showing me where I wanted to go with my career – it has helped me determine that I definitely want to work with youth in the Juvenile Justice Department. It answered a lot of the unknown questions that everyone has coming into college like what am I going to do and how am I going to get there? This program helped me determine that I am going to go into a master's program and helped me find resources and different ways of getting the connections necessary to get into the programs and to move forward into the career that I want to do. 

Through ADP, I was able to work with a mentee to facilitate positive youth development, and I quickly recognized how important it was to provide support and resources. Throughout this process, I distinguished aspects of the youth’s life that needed macro changes to make a real impact. There were many instances where problems occurred that resulted from systemic involvement, outdated policies, and familial difficulties. This program gave me the background and knowledge necessary to dedicate my career to making a real change in others’ lives through evidence-based policymaking.


What has it meant to be a part of this program? 

This is the program and class that I tell everyone about. This has become a huge part of who I am in my academic experience here at MSU.  I'm just really proud to be part of this program, doing such important work that it is doing. And I tell everyone about how exciting it is to be in this class and how nice it is to be working one on one with someone in the community where you can actually see how you are helping and directly work with people that might need it. It feels good to be doing something directly with the community. 


Have you had any moments that have stood out to you throughout this program? 

I'd say my biggest aha moment was last year when I was in the position of being one of the advocates. I was coming back from my first time meeting my youth- it was just kind of like I'm so happy to be part of this program. It was like an aha of like, I want to do this kind of work. And that was really good because it was my junior year of college and was my first time that I had that experience where I knew I was doing the right kind of work. It's nice to have that reassurance that I picked the right path. 


What is your favorite memory during your time with the Adolescent Diversion Program? 

My favorite moment as part of the Adolescent Diversion Program was when the intervention came to an end and my mentee informed me they wanted to remain in contact. This demonstrated how I was able to make a genuine connection with this individual. 


What are you up to now? 

I entered the University of Michigan’s master's programs in Social Work and Public Policy. I want to focus my work on helping juvenile youth by developing policies that counteract the negative challenges I witnessed within the juvenile justice system. I want to help disassemble the cycle of system involvement that many minorities and impoverished individuals are forced into. I’m looking to surround myself with individuals with similar commitments to racial justice, excellence, and impact while being exposed to unique and diverse perspectives which will collectively help develop and expand my desire to facilitate change. 

I want to serve the populations I witnessed fall victim to the faults of the juvenile justice system. In my work, I have been able to make a positive impact on an individual level but was unable to do the same with larger-scale challenges I witnessed within the community. Therefore, I wish to serve on a more macro level and make changes that impact communities, not just individuals. 


Best Spartan spirit experience? 

I have too many amazing experiences at MSU to decide on just one, but I cherish my last football game as an MSU student. I was surrounded by all my friends and fellow classmates huddling together to stay warm. The bleachers were covered in snow but that did not stop us Spartans from coming out to cheer. 


Do you have any advice for psychology majors? 

Make connections with faculty early on! The MSU faculty that I have been able to connect with has been critical in helping me better understand my career goals and how to achieve them.