Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Documentary Screening and Panel Discussion at Guilford College: Reflection and Appreciation

A Changing Lens: Exploring Educational Necessity Behind Bars

Documentary Screening and Panel Discussion

Reflecting on the construction and implementation of our efforts
(panelists included: Max Kenner, Executive Director of the Bard Prison Initiative, Sean Pica Executive Director of Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison, Anthony Cardenales, former inmate and graduate of Bard, Dr. Anne Hayes, researcher and professor in VA prisons)

November 2012 marked the year anniversary of my initial and building work towards spearheading

a Higher Education Prison Initiative through Guilford College. Walking into Bryan Jr. Auditorium on

November 8, 2012 to address the educational need for those incarcerated to the Guilford and

surrounding communities seemed surreal. I had spent the previous year tirelessly writing emails,

making phone calls, writing letters and writing proposals to leaders in higher education programs

throughout the country, foundations, administrators, researchers, people incarcerated and their

families, sometimes waiting to no avail for an answer . Other times (and most often )I developed

friendships, encouragement, guidance, advice ,support and collegiality .

The event on November 8 was a product of dedication, collegiality , and heart in our shared vision of

educational opportunity to those incarcerated. Throughout my research and planning efforts I had been

inspired by the people that came to speak on the panel , their resilience and continual efforts great and

small initiating change while advocating for higher education in prisons. And I was overwhelmed with

gratitude for those supporters right here at Guilford that helped to bring those strong voices together in

one place .

The documentary screening gave many of us an insight into the realities of those incarcerated and

undoubtedly the powerful effects of education. At one point , with a heavy and aching heart I looked

around with tears rolling down my cheeks to see the audience reaction to the film. It was inspiring. I

was able to see others recognize the humanity in the persons before them . I could see the challenge

in their eyes they were ready to take to understand and promote a solidarity in this initiative.

The panelists spoke following the documentary on an array of topics structured around prison

pedagogy, program models, sustainability assessment tools, bringing strong background experience

and expertise to enrich and promote our goals.

With resounding testament: one panelist said “our greatest error would be to do nothing, even if it’s just

one class one semester, get in there and do it.” The next day following the panel, there were meetings

with the event’s panelists to discuss further groundwork for the initiative . After hours of strategizing,

questioning and planning the meetings ended with greater support and recognized need than before.

This event has led our efforts to be recognized by crucial supporters in higher education in prison s.

Hence, an excited Executive Director of the North Carolina Department of Corrections wants to meet

with Guilford to strategize implementation of this program.

Furthermore, I received a phone call that Guilford’s name will be in the mouths of funders as an

innovative school in North Carolina that is pushing and striving for valuable educational parity in

correctional institutions.

Nelson Mandela once said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

We are doing it....

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