My Inside-Out students and I had the unique opportunity on Monday to welcome one of our inside students to the campus of Oregon State University. E, the young man from the youth correctional facility, has been incarcerated for four years, and it was a very, very big deal for him to be able to come spend the day with us.
E is within a year of being released and he hopes to transfer his completed community college credits and attend OSU when he is free to do so. E is on a high honor level at the youth facility, and he is one of the only youths to have permission to occasionally go outside of the fence. Even so, he had to have special permission from two agencies to be allowed to visit OSU and two administrators/staff members from the facility accompanied him.
My wonderful outside OSU students were terrific hosts – meeting E and friends in the morning and giving him an insiders’ tour of the best parts of campus. Because E is a huge sports fan, in this photo we are standing on OSU’s basketball court in Gill Coliseum, and I have other pictures of us standing near home plate on OSU’s baseball field at Goss Stadium. Unfortunately, because of agency rules, I can’t share any of the photos with E in them. I’m in the pink sweater in this photo and E was on my left. To my right are my lovely outside students, Emily, Claire, Jon, and Laura – I am happy to at least share this memory of the day and I was able to give all of the participants a copy of the full photo.
The staff members with E took him to lunch off campus so that he could decompress a bit. I imagine he was completely overwhelmed by being on campus around so many unfamiliar people, sights, and sounds. They came back in the afternoon to meet with a small group of OSU students for an hour, and then E, Laura, Jon, the staff members and I walked around campus giving away free chocolate chip cookies (that had been freshly baked in the youth correctional facility) and flyers with information on incarceration, the youth facility, and how OSU students and faculty might get involved. It was a beautiful, sunny spring-like day, and we all had fun interacting with people on campus and giving out the cookies. I should clarify that I didn’t really help, but I did eat 2 of the cookies, showing an implicit endorsement of the product.
It was a great day. We got to share a part of our lives with E, and I’m sure he went back to the youth facility and shared his experience with the other young men who were not allowed to go on this trip. Perhaps it will make some of these incarcerated youth see that attending OSU or another college/university may be a viable option for them when they get out. The administrators and staff at the youth facility and I hope that this will just be the first of many such visits to campus for youth from the facility over the coming years. I send my OSU students into the facility as often as I can, and it was amazing to have one of our inside guys go the other direction and visit us at Oregon State University. We all have a lot to learn from each other, and – working together – I really believe we can make our corner of the world a better place.