The Saint Louis University prison program
offers college-level educational opportunities for men and women living
and working within the prison systems in Missouri and Illinois. The whole
experience for me was more about learning about who I was as a human
being. I think it’s instilled in me a sense of self-confidence. I was in Rome
with Julius Caesar, I lived a life of a beekeeper, I was in a concentration camp
with Viktor Frankl. You know, uh, experience things that I would never
have experienced before. The classroom is it’s a pretty intimate setting it’s kind
of loose, comfortable. I don’t feel like I’m different than a student, like,
treated at the University. The students I have at Bonterre are absolutely
110% committed to their courses. The classes that we’re offering are Saint
Louis University classes. They’re the same classes that a student on our campus in
St. Louis or our campus in Madrid would take they’re taught by the same faculty and
at the culmination of the degree our students receive a degree from Saint Louis
University. One of the most moving graduation ceremonies I’ve ever been to
after 25 years in higher education was the one that took place at that prison.
The entire experience is powerful including being in the prison itself. The
students were more appreciative than any students I had ever encountered. They
were excited, they were proud of themselves. It was a very moving ceremony. In addition to our College-credit bearing courses, we offer workshops, we offer speaker series and other events that are similar to what
you would see on a college campus. I mean I’m in prison because I came from
a broken place full of broken people so what I learned from the program was that
the value of what was as a person. I’ve received straight A’s so far,
and that’s a real confidence booster. Our education it means the world to me.
It opens up a lot of doors, it breaks down ceilings. That’s what education is. It’s more than just knowledge it says something that’s pushes some into action
and compassion. So as a Catholic Jesuit institution, one of the things to which
we are committed is a preferential option for the poor and the marginalized.
One of the ways in which the prison program really reflects the mission is
by taking those folks who are in some cases at the lowest part of our society
and giving them hope and giving them an opportunity to reenter society.
After completing Degree, having Saint Louis University attached to my name it
would help me overcome the stigma of incarceration. So when the opportunity
for this program presented itself I thought this is the way they changed the
narrative about my future. We believe in redemption as a community, we believe
that there are second chances, and so I think that giving folks that hope is
clearly something that we can learn and remain hopeful people ourselves.
It’s reframed the way I look at the world and reframed to how people look at me.