Its been a week since the last day of my second tour with @roadtripnation and as I reflect on this journey I am overflowing with gratitude from the growth, opportunities and magic I’ve experienced. Today one of the roadies asked me what is the moment that has stood out the most from my tours, and I can whole heartedly say that it was doing an event in Alabama at Ingram State Tech College that also happened to be a Prison.
Although in the beginning there were thoughts racing through my mind like “What can I possible say to someone who’s been in prison for years that can be inspiring and motivating? How do I relate to inmates raging in age from 20-60? “ But as soon as I stepped into the college building, I felt like I was in a “free world” ( as they call everything that’s outside of the prison) college. Staff referred to each individual as a student, I never heard the term inmate.
As the students poured in and the presentation went on, they were all engaged, respectful and most of all willing to open up to us and their peers. I realized this might have been the first time for a lot of them that someone was asking them, what do you love to do? How do you think you can get to that? And more importantly encouraging them to drop the disempowering noise and go for it! This may have been a moment for many in which it was just about them, as humans, not inmates. I felt the sense of pride and emotion that came over those who chose to stand up, say their name instead of their inmate number and share what their true passions and goals were. I made a connection between the high school students we had been visiting and the inmates, they all heard noise, they all had passions, and they all wanted to follow their dreams. That’s what we were their to do, tell them that no matter where you are in life, you can make that happen, you just have to believe in yourself and go for it.
They later on gave us a tour of their workshops, from welding and carpentry to upholstery and electrical, each jumping at the opportunity to geek out with us and show us what they are learning and what they had created. Before we left, two students ran up to us, one handing us a fish made of scrap metal that he welded himself, and the other a bag full of pillows that they had made in the upholstery class for us to take with us. Their sincere gratitude, excitement and genuine inspiration filled me with joy, compassion and hope in humanity.
The mission of this college is to inspire, nurture and empower the resilient human spirit of inmates by providing immediate and lasting solutions, one trade and one student at a time. Every student I met not only expressed their hope for their future but that of the world. Eliminating the prejudice that is carried about people who have been incarcerated and empowering these communities, no matter their circumstances, is vital to evolving human kind with compassion for a better world to be tangible in our lifetime. 💪🏼💗