As you prepare to graduate from Prison University Project, what kind of legacy do you want to leave for the college community?
I hope that I’ve showed other people about perseverance. I’ve spent nine years as a student, so I’ve been a part of the College Program longer than anyone other than Jody. I’ve been distracted by a lot of things along the way, and I’ve taken a lot of classes that I didn’t pass, but I never gave up. I came back from each failure and learned to grow from it. The whole experience was terrifying, but I did it.
What has been the most surprising part of being a college student?
I think I was surprised at how much I grew during my college experience. I assumed that I would walk out of school with a bunch of knowledge in my head, but I didn’t expect college to change the way I viewed other people, or the way I viewed myself. Growing up around a lot of violence and trauma, I had a view of the world that was marked by danger. I saw everyone around me as a potential enemy. I had to do that, to protect myself. Once I joined the College Program, my view shifted. I encountered so many volunteers from the outside who were invested in my success. I started to think, “if so many people care about what happens to me here, the world can’t be against me.”
Tell us about an instructor or tutor who has been especially influential in your experience as a student. How has s/he impacted you?
Becca Carter was my very first mentor. She tutored me in algebra, and after working with me for only month, helped me to pull off an A in the class. She was the first person I started to get to know outside of the context of prison, and as I started to see the world through her experiences, my own view of the world shifted. I gained so much from our interactions.
Beyond completing your AA Degree, what goals have you set for yourself?
I want to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science, and would like to link up with the Underground Scholars Program at U.C. Berkeley when I am released. My mother told me that I was always good with puzzles as a child, and that teachers would get mad at me because I could finish a puzzle before they had time to share the instructions. To me, computer coding is the ultimate puzzle, because there’s no end to what you can build. I’m also looking forward to being a father. I have four daughters and one grandbaby. I can’t wait to watch my youngest daughter play basketball. One day, I’d like to build a leadership academy for children with incarcerated parents. So many children of incarcerated parents don’t have an outlet for processing the trauma they experience. I want to help give them the emotional and educational tools they need to thrive.
What are you passionate about?
I’m really passionate about the environment. I work with GreenLife, which helps to promote environmental literacy. Their motto is that we should live with the earth, not just on it. I believe that how we see ourselves is reflected in how we treat our planet. When I was on the streets I didn’t value myself, so I polluted my community.