Get Close: Volunteer Perspective

When I began with Free To Succeed, I didn’t know what prison life was like and I didn’t enter San Quentin with any preconceived notions. My heartfelt intention was to let those I would encounter know that they are not forgotten, and that they each have intrinsic value no matter their crime. As important as our tutoring is to the educational development of these inmates, the encouragement and inspiration we impart is vital to their lives, and ours. The relationships that are developed over time change our students, and change us. Inmates see that we care about them as we faithfully enter every week, month after month, year after year. They come to understand that we believe in their abilities and strengths to persevere in both their educational pursuits and their futures. That combination is a winning formula for building personal esteem, self-worth, and happiness. There is mutual respect and appreciation for one another in this classroom. Over the last eight years, the joy I have found in working with so many different personalities has been a gift. I would encourage everyone to move out of one’s comfort zone – take a chance and cross a threshold that is unknown. In his book Just Mercy, the author Bryan Stevenson quotes his grandmother saying to him, “You can’t understand most of the important things from a distance, Bryan. You have to get close”.

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