|Elizabeth Reid |
Our featured student for summer 2012 is Elizabeth Reid. Elizabeth has been a student in the Post-Prison Education Program since May 2011. She is the recipient of the 2012 Martin Achievement Scholarship and contributing author in "Disrupting the School-to-Prison Pipeline" (Harvard Education Press
Below Elizabeth tells us her story:
My name is Elizabeth Reid and I am a student in the Post-Prison Education Program. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our donors for their unwavering support of our program and to let everyone know what this program has meant to me. I was born into chaos and criminality and led to believe from day one that my future had already been decided. I watched and learned and eventually became the criminal I had always been expected to become. Education was mocked as something unattainable for people like "us" and we were discouraged from pursuing it. This teaching led me to be imprisoned three separate times. The inter-generational cycle of imprisonment in my family was kept alive by my incarceration. This was not how I wanted my life to be and I cursed the fates that delivered me to the life they did. Then one day a door cracked open and gave me a glimpse of what life could be. It was the day that the Post-Prison Education Program came to our prison.
I will never forget sitting in the audience and listening to people who had lived lives similar to mine yet had found a way to change their lives through education. Their stories of opportunity and success touched me in a way I had never felt before. If they could do it, why couldn't I? Their passion for their new lives, their dreams for a better future, and their pride at finally belonging somewhere reached out and took hold of me. Education was the only thing I had never tried as a means of changing my life. In fact, I had avoided it like the plague. Yet...what if? What if it could take me somewhere better? Hope was born that day. When I released, the first appointment I made was with Ari at Post-Prison Education Program. That meeting changed my life forever.
Elizabeth is a HUGE Seahawks fan. Her and her son and at a game.
They took me in. They put their faith and belief in me. And I belonged to something for the first time. With the support network that the program provided to me, I was able to have a foundation from which I could build. Instead of worrying all of the time about how I was going to live, I was able to feel safe enough to focus on my education. The program became a foundation for me to stand on while I reached for the stars. Without that help I would not have been able to grab a couple of pretty nice stars along the way. Here are some of the shiniest ones: I am a 4.0 student beginning my sixth quarter soon. I was selected in May as the recipient of the 2012 Martin Achievement Scholarship through the Martin Family Foundation for the University of Washington; I will receive up to $35,000 for my studies at the University of Washington. I was invited to the University of Washington as a guest scholar in the winter quarter of 2011 in the Honors Program. I emceed, as well as performed readings of my writings, at the People With Convictions event at Kane Hall in April. I was asked to speak at the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers annual conference this year, and then to present the Champion of Justice Award to Ari. I was able to participate as a panelist for a community forum addressing racial inequality and mass incarceration with Councilman Larry Gossett and State Representative Mary Helen Rogers. I was a panelist at the recent Town Hall event as a representative of the program. I am also being published by Harvard University Press this upcoming November in their book, "Disrupting the School To Prison Pipeline" as a contributing author.
There are more examples, but I think these highlight my accomplishments as well as exemplify what the Post-Prison Education Program does-it changes lives. It takes those of us who have never been given the opportunity and hope that should have come with our humanity, and gives us those very things. We become validated as human beings of worth and value, and finally, we begin to believe in our own potential and value to this world. Ari Kohn and the Post-Prison Education Program, supporters and donors, and every institution that welcomes us onto their campuses have truly given us lives worth living; lives worth keeping. My life was spared. I was fortunate enough to be one of the few able to be served by the program. Without it, I would either be in prison, or even dead. And without supporters of the program, it would cease to exist. From the bottom of my heart, I thank all of our supporters for this. You have helped to save my life. You have helped to put me in a position to now give back to the world something of value. I will be the first in my family to earn a college degree. The first. And finally, the inter-generational chain of criminality in my family has been broken. That means everything.