By Hollie Garrett III
I sit in this space observing the learning and empowerment all around me. Bryson stands at the white board patiently teaching his student the alphabet. Dev prepares to teach his handful of students algebra. Tony, whose first language is English, finishes up his class for Spanish speaking students. Hippie rolls around in Mr. Taylor’s chair between his three students teaching them math. Other higher learners sit in their respective spaces practicing and completing assignments. On the bulletin board are six copies of GED’s, posted as symbols of possibility and motivation.
This is a unique room within these institutional walls. It is not the norm because it is designated for those who want to improve through education. It is the Peer Literacy Mentors Program (PLMP) classroom. PLMP trains incarcerated people to tutor incarcerated students for their GED. In the past, this instruction was the responsibility of free staff teachers and the only peers involved were teacher’s aides. At Mule Creek the only free staff teacher is Mr. Taylor, who trains the mentors and schedules testing.
In the corner are six computers used by Sacramento State students. They can type papers using Microsoft WORD, or do research on the data base. College students can also review their class syllabus, read assigned books, do quizzes, exams, or submit assignments.
The classroom is a place of self-motivated learning. All the tutors and students choose to be here to improve themselves & their environment.
This room is different than most I’ve been in within prison walls. It’s a room of learning and service. It feels separate from the rest of the yard. Once you step out of this room, you step back into prison. In here, you’re free. Here you can remove the chains from your mind and find a higher self, overcoming fears and setbacks. During my time in this room I’ve come to see it differently. It’s a room where we choose to be, in a place we are forced to be.