Iota Sweethearts have been making strides in their respective communities for decades; therefore, it comes to no surprise that our very own Sweetheart Lorna S. Simmons, is continuing to break barriers and make history, her way.
Sweetheart Simmons is the first African-American and female to ever hold the post of Chief Probation Officer in Hampden Superior Court. She manages the probation operations for a 634 square mile area that includes 26 cities and towns.
Sweetheart Simmons began her career as a probation officer in Westfield District Court in 1993. In 1997, she became a Hampden Superior Court Probation Officer. Three years later, in 2000 she was appointed Assistant Chief Probation Officer in that court.
“I believe my appointment as the first African-American and first woman as Chief Probation Officer in the Hampden Superior Court was the catalyst for change that would occur in my life. In my mind, it felt as if I had accomplished one of the biggest fetes. ‘I did it’ and I did it without the assistance of political connections. My integrity and merit means the world to me.
“For 25 years in the probation service, I have taken pride in being a leader in a field dominated by men. I go to work every day hoping to change the lives of those individuals that reside in the same community as I do. What makes my job fulfilling is that people of color can identify with me and are more willing to change knowing I understand their plight. It goes without saying, whatever I do in my position, my race permeates every facet, which is a constant reminder that I must continue to step up and be all that I can be to my staff, and my and community. Someone is always watching and waiting for your downfall.”
When she's not making history, she is also the Secretary of the Library Commission, a position her peers voted her into. She also teaches as an adjunct professor. How does she balance it all?
“Multitasking seem to be in my blood,” says Sweetheart Simmons. “There isn’t anything that I do that I’m not multitasking. My schedule is often tight but I am able to manage all of the meetings and committees by being extremely organized. If any particular date doesn’t work for me, I am flexible and able to rearrange my daily schedule to accommodate a meeting."
For any woman pursuing a career in criminal justice, Sweetheart Simmons advises to not be easily discouraged: “There are many opportunities in the field of criminal justice. What is most important is that women don’t get discouraged believing the male dominance and various pay scales would hold them back. Early networking as a college student, graduate student or while doing an internship is the best avenue to learn what position you will thrive in. Meet with people in the field you wish to pursue. Ask a lot of questions, don’t be afraid to seek a mentor and build your resume. Finally, if you don’t get a particular job on the first few tries, don’t give up your dream to work in this field. I can tell you as a probation officer, the application process is intense, and there are usually 300+ applicants. Very few get the job the first time. Keep applying for CJ positions and eventually your number will be called.”
Sweetheart Lorna Simmons became an Iota Sweetheart in the spring of 1982 at the Omicron Chapter of Northeastern University, in Boston MA. She currently serves as our National Director of Professional/Alumni Affairs. Sweetheart Simmons is also a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. Springfield Alumnae Chapter.