When I set up the Petey Greene Program in 2008, I knew there was a need for academic resources in our country’s prisons and jails. I knew that there were students in prison who could benefit greatly from the support of a tutor in achieving their academic goals and from having human contact with university students. But I never dreamed of the extent to which the program would also have an impact on the tutors themselves.
Volunteers were coming out of facilities saying, “I discovered a world I never knew existed.” They saw poverty and the results of educational inequality, and observed how these issues contribute to injustices in the criminal justice system. Even if a volunteer had heard about these problems, they would take on a new light after the volunteer had been inside the facility. Volunteers learned that service is a powerful reciprocal process through which one can impact another’s life, and be impacted in return. And many felt motivated to pursue lives of related service, like becoming lawyers, advocates, and teachers.
Today, we’re working hard to make sure that the tutoring experience continues to change the lives of our volunteers. Our tutor training curriculum begins discussions about inequity and humility, conversations that continue throughout the semester with volunteer debriefs and follow-up trainings. It’s our hope that this kind of self-reflection helps our volunteers to become better tutors and more engaged citizens of this country.
I’m extremely humbled by how the program has developed, and very grateful. I can’t imagine anyone at my age having a more profound experience. I get such a feeling of happiness seeing the people touched by the program, and who are changing and developing it. I’m grateful for each and every volunteer.
To our volunteers who will be graduating from college this year, I wish you all the best of luck. Thank you for making the Petey Greene Program part of your life’s journey.
All the best,