Yvette Llerena has a message for women starting their career at CDCR.
“There is real opportunity for women to grow in the Department,” Llerena said. “It can be what you want — there are so many avenues if you work at it.”
Her calling is law enforcement
Last year Llerena was promoted to Parole Agent III, supervising a unit in the South Coast District and providing training as a Range Safety Officer. She began her career with CDCR in 2007 and steadily worked her way up the ranks.
Llerena studied sociology in college and thought she might pursue a law career. Instead, she found her true career calling in law enforcement. She started with the Orange County Probation Department and then moved to CDCR as a parole agent.
“It was everything I was looking for – social work and criminal justice,” Llerena said. “I am able to give guidance and direction, help families and work with community members.”
She remembers one particularly gratifying case where she worked with a young mother with a history of domestic abuse get a fresh start through community programs and job placement. “Years later, I was in Target and she came up and thanked me. Her life was very different. She was remarried and successfully raising her daughter.”
There were challenges moving through a male-dominated profession, particularly in the early days. Without many mentors or resources, Llerena said she counseled herself to always be a role model by staying professional and remaining confident. She learned empathy and patience were important tools. If parolees were more comfortable, they were more likely to communicate and cooperate.
Llerena has been among a very small number of female supervisors and became a “powerhouse” at her job, said Maryann Osbourne, who supervised Llerena for five years. Osbourne said she is perhaps most struck by Llerena’s generosity with her time.
Llerena is a ‘true leader’
“She is a true leader, who took the time to transfer her success by training employees and developing other future leaders,” Osbourne said. “And, she was always the one in charge of the extracurricular activities, whether it was raising money for Special Olympics or running a toy drive.”
Finding balance between work and family was also a priority. Llerena said she was lucky to have support from her family, making it possible for her to move up the career ladder while remaining active in her children’s school and sports. When her children were young she didn’t tell them details of what she did for a living, but as they’ve grown older they’ve watched her career progress with pride.
“They would see me go out to early morning sweeps with my gear and understood the dangers,” she said. “They realize that I’m working to help people and to keep our community safe.”
By Terri Hardy, Public Information Officer II