Division of Juvenile Justice, Rehabilitation

DJJ alumnus earns honorable discharge, gives back through charity

A photo of bags being delivered as two women and one man pose for a photograph.
Hilarry White, at right, delivers Christmas bags to juvenile facilities through a charitable organization. White, also shown inset, recently earned an Honorable Discharge, a legal definition he can use to help get his record expunged.

Hilarry White reveals his dreams, challenges and rewards of nonprofit work

By Jenean Docter, Executive Fellow
Division of Juvenile Justice

Hilarry White believes passionately in the power of giving back. Reflecting about his work at the non-profit outreach program, Women of Substance and Men of Honor (WOSMOH) in Newbury Park, he concludes, “That’s the most fulfilling thing: giving back, doing something that matters at the end of the day. I don’t want to get into anything that doesn’t matter.”

White’s work certainly matters. He sits on the advisory board of WOSMOH, creates marketing materials, and secures donations. He also travels to group homes to motivate at-promise youth to pursue their dreams and delivers care packages to people recently released from incarceration. “Some people act like they don’t care, but some people act like they really care,” he notes.

He said the most fulfilling part of his role at WOSMOH is that “you can actually see the fruits of your labor.”

Attaining an Honorable Discharge is a noteworthy accomplishment along White’s journey forward. He describes it as a “fresh start” that will allow him better access to housing and employment, and will help with the expungement process. He said even though it was “nerve wracking” to “think about whether I’ve done any work since I’ve been out,” his resolve is compelling.

Giving back and moving forward

However, White’s path into a future as an upstanding community member wasn’t always straightforward. He said he was “misled” as a youth, and “acted out poorly,” damaging communities and the facilities in which he was housed.

Reentry also presented him with a significant challenge, even with the support of WOSMOH and others. Reflecting on his path, he said, “I just want to give back.”

White is a passionate narrator skilled at motivational speaking. He honed these skills by mentoring and encouraging youth while at the Ventura Youth Correctional Facility. Today, he’s interested in delivering motivational Skype speeches to current DJJ youth. When asked how he reached success, he explains, “In orders to really change, you have to want it. Some people want it more than others.”

The resilient young man has built himself around accountability, generosity, and ambition. He’s already received two scholarships at Moorpark College, where he studies. White dreams of starting his own security company, where he plans to give back by employing other formerly incarcerated people. He’s confident that “it’s definitely in the future.”

White is humble about his success, admitting, “I don’t think I’ve done anything until I’ve made a lot of money. I’ve done a lot of heartfelt work — maybe that’s what really matters.”

What is Honorable Discharge?

Former DJJ youth can apply for an Honorable Discharge if it has been at least 18 months since they were discharged, they have completed their probation or parole term, they have shown an ability to desist from criminal behavior, and they have started a successful transition to adulthood. After sending an application and short personal statement to the Board of Juvenile Hearings, they appear in front of the Board to speak about their growth since leaving DJJ. You can find the application here.