NEIU Program graduates students at Stateville Correctional Center

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(Photograph: Babita Patel for the Guardian)

A cohort of seven students from the Northeastern Illinois University – University Without Walls (UWW) Program and Prison + Neighborhood Arts & Education Project (PNAP) joint program will graduate with Bachelor of Art degrees at Stateville Correctional Center, marking a pivotal milestone in Illinois for the advancement of educational programming behind bars. The graduation ceremony, which will take place inside the prison’s auditorium building, will feature remarks by Angela Y. Davis, Professor Emeritus at the University of California Santa Cruz, and Juliana Stratton, Lieutenant Governor of Illinois. The ceremony will also feature a guest musical performance by Chancelor Bennett, popularly known as Chance the Rapper. All special guests in attendance will convene to celebrate the historic accomplishments of the graduating cohort. The collaboration between the UWW Program and PNAP offers graduates a one-of-a-kind educational experience where students’ extensive learning and skills outside of traditional classroom settings are recognized and where students work hand-in-hand alongside academic and community advisors to design individualized curricula.

In addition to providing students in the UWW–P+NAP joint program with access to liberal arts and humanities coursework, P+NAP also offers college-level courses to individuals incarcerated at Stateville Correctional Center who are not in the degree-bearing program, including individuals with limited or no prior college  experience.

Quote from Erica Meiners – “I am incredibly proud and honored to stand alongside these seven scholars and applaud their academic achievements. Their scholarly contributions, reflected in part by each student’s final portfolio, are exemplary. As a faculty member of Northeastern Illinois University, I am also proud to acknowledge NEIU’s role as a publicly funded resource for higher-learning. This program would not exist without it.”

In addition to their intellectual contributions to the field, the cohort’s achievements shine a bright light on the transformative power of education and higher-learning within prison.

Quote from Sarah Ross – “Since the early 90s, funding for higher education to people in prison has been nominal. This is true, in part, due to federal and state legislation that has limited access to education and other educational and intellectual resources for people behind bars. The lack of funding coincided with ‘tough on crime’ policies and the cultural shifts that went along with them. Despite this, organizations like P+NAP, and universities such as Northeastern Illinois University are working to change this.”

In the end, the graduation ceremony signified a historic and critical achievement for the program’s scholars and educators alike.

Quote from Timothy Barnett – “I am amazed by the passion and perseverance displayed by this graduating class, who have contributed so much to the community through their political, legal, artistic, and writing skills and their commitment to justice. I am also honored to have had the opportunity to work alongside dedicated and brilliant educators, advisors, and officials whose ongoing efforts make this program possible.”

UWW/PNAP GRADUATING CLASS OF 2019 The University Without Walls program and Prison + Neighborhood Arts Project are pleased to announce the graduation of these seven scholars:

Joseph Dole is a writer, artist, activist and one of the co-founders of Parole Illinois. He is actively involved in criminal justice reform legislation and graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree and a depth area in Critical Carceral-Legal Studies.

Raúl Dorado is an incarcerated student, author and prison education advocate. His depth area is Justice Policy Advocacy. His goal is to foster healthy relationships within his prison community.

Darrell Fair’s studies have depth areas in Social Justice, Community Organizing, Business Entrepreneurship and Community Relations. Social Justice is equal participation and distribution of resources to all members of society. Darrell chooses to organize and educate the community to work toward the eradication of inequality.

Antonio (T.K.) Kendrick’s depth areas are Criminal Justice Administration and Transformative Justice. He selected those depth areas because his interests are individual and social transformation. UWW has given him the skill set he needs to be a positive force and change agent wherever he goes.

Marshall Stewart is a Native American raised by a Mexican-American family, which fostered his love of service and led him to choose Organization Communication and Resource Development for Non-Profits as the depth area for his baccalaureate degree. His NEIU degree builds upon his previous education in the medical field, as well as his work in the paralegal profession.

Devon K. Terrell was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago and grew up with Hip Hop. His UWW depth area is Poetic Justice in Black Culture, which focuses on the use of poetry and art to transform youth culture and society. “My life’s work is making my life work.” – Devon K. Terrell

Eric Watkins is a Northeastern Illinois University UWW Bachelor of Arts degree graduate. His depth area is Urban-American Jurisprudence and Transformative Justice Education. Eric chose this social science field of study to better serve the needs of his community.

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