When I was in prison, I reluctantly attended a required "job skills" course that was focused on the foundations of job readiness. The instructor brought in a list of employers known to hire people with criminal records, which was meant to be encouraging, but looking at that list I was demoralized. I asked, "How is this supposed to change my life?" In response, the instructor sat down and started exploring the possibilities with me.
I didn’t believe school was a real option for me, but she was the first of many who saw something in me that I couldn’t see in myself. I released on June 16, 2015 and started at LCC that fall.
I was referred to the TRIO Student Support Services program where I sat down with an advisor and opened up about my past. I remember recounting the trauma and decisions that preceded my prison stay, yet she was writing things like “resilient, resourceful, determined.” I didn’t understand how she picked those traits out of the ugly truth I was sharing. This was the first glimpse I got of myself that wasn’t riddled with shame.
I remember thinking that the world of academia wasn’t going to be a welcoming place for people like me, but I was wrong. Education transformed my life. It helped me build a foundation for a future I never could have imagined. I graduated with highest honors from LCC and went on to graduate summa cum laude from WSU-V with a Bachelor’s in Public Affairs. I currently work for the Statewide Reentry Council where I use my story to effect reentry legislation.
If anyone is hesitant about their ability to attend a community or technical college, push that doubt away. Education can and will change your life.
The Washington State Association of College Trustees (ACT) created the Transforming Lives Awards program in 2012 to recognize current or former students whose lives have been transformed by pursuing higher education at a community or technical college.