It’s rare when someone can say that they know exactly who they are and what it is in life they hope to do. For many, self-discovery and healing is a lifelong journey.
Alverno student Dorian Tellis, however, knew as early as high school that her life’s work would be focused on restorative justice and its practices.
“Restorative practices hails from an indigenous tradition utilized to repair harm and build community amongst everyone in general,” she explains. “Restorative justice is used within the justice system.”
As a student at Alliance High School, Tellis learned about restorative justice and how to facilitate healing conversations. She began doing this work in the Milwaukee community and beyond, including training professionals in restorative practices at places like Harvard University and Northwestern University.
As Tellis traveled to other universities, it lit her desire to pursue her own higher education.
“I could run down my resume all day, but when you have those letters after your name, that’s my resume,” she says. “My resume can give me a knock at the door. But my education will have someone else open the door. That’s the difference.”
Still, her own path to higher education wasn’t without obstacles. She faced having to choose between her education or her livelihood. But a meeting with Alverno faculty member Ronett Jacobs ’98 resulted in a new path.
Jacobs encouraged Tellis to apply for Alverno’s Thea Bowman Institute for Excellence and Leadership, a mentorship and scholarship program for Black undergraduate students with a strong desire to serve as leaders. She was accepted and began her Alverno studies in January, majoring in accounting and business.
As a student, Tellis continues to pursue her passion: working with Milwaukee youth. She currently has a contract with the Milwaukee County Division Youth and Family Services, assisting youth with restorative practices as they discuss systemic issues such as the school to prison pipeline and intergenerational trauma.
“I think a lot of times youth don’t succeed because they don’t see themselves in the people they idolize,” she says. “I have worked with people from the LGBTQ+ community and from poverty. There is much more to come in the future, and what you are enduring isn’t forever. This comes from me learning myself.”
One day, Tellis hopes to establish her own nonprofit organization. Despite times where she heard that her vision wasn’t workable, she remains optimistic.
“I’ve sat in many meetings with men in suits who told me that my dream was fluff. Now those same men ask me if I can provide equity training and community building for their staff,” she says. “Don’t be afraid to dream. Don’t think that anything is out of your reach and know that anything that is worth having is going to be hard. My job started as a dream.”