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Testimonials

Prison-to-College Pipeline (P2CP) Testimonials

 

Reflections On the Prison-to-College Pipeline By Students in the Program:

Being in the P2CP Program has changed my life…Being around my classmates, in and out, has made me want to become a better man and take life more seriously. College has opened my eyes to different avenues…I know this is crazy, but I look forward to the long study hours when I enroll. Because I know I’ll be fulfilling a life-long dream. –Robert (Otisville student)

When I received my acceptance letter into this program I literally cried. I cried because education has been the trajectory toward my rehabilitation…Professor Baz has given me a “new life”…my future trajectory is clear: Education is not an option; it is my new way of life. –Kenneth (Otisville student)

We are not the favorite on the list but soon we will prove that we, too, can shine if light is given. –Melvin (Otisville student)

 

On the P2CP’s monthly learning exchanges involving both John Jay and Otisville students:

I cannot describe my feelings about Friday’s class. I’ve never been in such a setting. The intellect in the room was exuberant. I walked away from this class with an overwhelming thirst for knowledge. While hearing such an exchange of ideas, I realized I’ve finally made the right decision. –Anthony (Otisville student)

These sessions have been instrumental to my personal growth. These men and women who have taken time out of their lives to interact with us men, to help in the shaping of ideas and attitudes without being condescending, have been a blessing. –Theron (Otisville student)

My time in the P2C Pipeline has taught me that if you show people you have faith in them and  that you know they can do well, it unleashes a drive that they may not have realized existed within themselves.  I witnessed it every single visit…Without hesitation I can say that it has been the most rewarding and eye-opening experience of my academic career.  Who knows?  Maybe one day I can help expand the program or even help to create others. –Eileen (John Jay student)

Mentally it removes me from jail, prison or whatever you may want to call it….I was impressed by the students. I can see that they apply themselves and know how to express their ideas, something I can learn as I struggle to accurately express myself. -Melvin (Otisville student)

Throughout the learning exchange, I was amazed to see how Otisville students engaged in meaningful discourses with my peers and Professor Dreisinger. I sat in a classroom filled with intellectuals, a setting that was completely identical to my daily classroom lectures in College. We reviewed literature readings and applied its philosophical, historical, sociological and literature meanings to current events. Overall, my learning exchange experience was exhilarating; in one day, I have learned as much as I would have learned in half a semester. –Todd (John Jay student)

I’ve never experienced anything like that before in my life. It was truly remarkable. Never in my life did I believe that college was fun. John Jay did me a big favor in selecting me for this program. The students—wow! Fun to learn with. I can’t wait to get out and go to John Jay College. –Kenneth (Otisville student)

I thank all the students for taking on this project and seeing beyond my current residence and seeing me for who I am, and for the potential John Jay student I intend to be. –Kenneth (Otisville student)

Throughout the discussions I kept asking myself, “How did these guys end up in this place?” I kept wondering, “These guys seem like they want to change and do something different this time around with themselves. It will be hard for them when or if they get released back into society because there are so many obstacles stacked against them. If only there was a way for society not to condemn and limit their potentials, if they manage to make this new change through the various college initiatives”…I cannot explain it but when it was time to leave and I walked out that room, something in me felt very different. There was a mixture of excitement, a new found understanding, and inspiration. It felt great being there contributing something to helping these inmates who seem to want a new change if given another chance. –Patrick (John Jay student)

 

Professors Who Have Taught in the Program:

My semester teaching English 101 in the Prison-to-College Pipeline has been the most rewarding I have had in over a decade of college-level education. The students were stupendously motivated, intellectually hungry and passionate about knowledge and self-improvement. They came to class armed with studied opinions about the texts; they valued the environment of free-flowing ideas and were eager to challenge themselves, others and me. For them, personal improvement equalled intellectual improvement, and at the close of the semester I was both pleased and proud to give out the highest, well-earned grades I have ever bestowed on any college class: In a class of 10, one earned an A, 5 earned A-, 3 earned B grades and only one student earned a C+. These grades were truly well deserved, and I can honestly say that the last day of class was harder for me than it was for them: I did not want my semester of teaching these model students to end. -Professor Baz Dreisinger, Associate Professor of English

From the beginning of our conversation the inmates showed an intense curiosity supplemented by astute comments and the kind of enthusiasm only the best learners exhibit. What became clear was their life experiences gave them a capacity and depth of understanding rarely found in traditional college students. By the end of the session I realized that these students were not only exceptional readers and thinkers, but poised to be serious contributors to society. Perhaps students at their best teach as much as they learn; on my visit to the prison I learned as much as I taught. Not since graduate school had I been part of such a rich discussion of Junot Diaz.  -Professor Richard Perez, Assistant Professor of Latino/a Studies and English

Teaching in the Prison-to-College Pipeline program through John Jay at Otisville State Prison reminded me of one of the fundamental reasons I became a teacher in the first place— education, and by that I mean, how to learn, or the art of not-teaching-teaching, changes lives.  My experiences in the program also confirmed for me what I continue to know to be true, despite so many of the naysayers who warned me against teaching in a prison— that the classroom is a sacred space. Whether the exchange takes place on the steps of the open-air “classrooms” of the Ancient Greek lyceums or behind the barbed wire fences and locked gates of a state prison, what transpires between a teacher and a student in a “classroom” is paradoxically both practical and profound, and such was the case in teaching the class at Otisville.  Despite the inequity in our relationship, inquisitiveness, hard work, self-discovery, and a willingness to be self-critical were shared, and I was grateful to be included in that collaboration.” -Professor Jean Mills, Assistant Professor of English

I didn’t know what to expect at the very beginning of the semester but I am very glad I joined this program and had an opportunity to meet several outstanding students. The students in my class were very respectful, kind, dedicated to their studies, bright and highly motivated. They left an impression on me. I was pleasantly surprised to see how eager the students were to learn and gain knowledge. They seemed to truly appreciate the opportunity given to them to work on improving their education, while serving a sentence… Your program deserves praise because it provides disadvantageous students with an opportunity to change and succeed in life. -Professor Jana Arsovska, Assistant Professor of Sociology