Three Months of Productivity!

16 Jun

Since our last post, the Street Scholars Leadership Team has been busy, productive, and successful.  Let’s start with the most recent news.

DATA COLLECTION IS COMPLETE!

During the months of April and May, the Street Scholar Leaders conducted four focus groups and six individual interviews with current and former Merritt College students.  The Street Scholar Leaders asked participants about their experiences entering college after being incarcerated and how school impacted their drug and alcohol use and reintegration. The focus group and interview participants shared their challenges and successes as well as how peer support helped them through school and with establishing a healthy and peaceful life for themselves in the community.

The team is hard at work analyzing the data but so far the results from this study show that school helps recovery, reduces criminal behavior, and enhances self-esteem. Our findings also suggest that the challenges to academic success are both practical, e.g. poor study habits, and emotional, e.g. feelings of failure at not being able to meet the demands of school, but, support from peers encourages academic success.  To tempt you further about our exciting forthcoming results, here are two narratives that demonstrate the impact of school on criminal behavior and the importance of peer mentoring!

Narrative 1. Really, I just came up here [to Merritt College] just to have something else to do…and then once I started, I start liking what I was doing…school helped me because, right now, I could be in the streets grinding, selling dope, but I choose not to because I want to stay in school and finish what I started…I’m majoring in Community Social Service…school really helped me, because I’m a in-the-streets type of cat, you know?  And…it keeps me out of the street.

Narrative 2. When I first came here [to Merritt] — lost — I was sitting at the computer in the career center trying to pick my classes, and I can’t even remember the last time I sat in front of a computer. It had to be at least 12 years. And this dude walked up to me and said, “What you trying to do, get your life together?” “Yeah, I am really!” And that’s what I said! At first, it kind of shocked me, because this dude kind of big…And he gave me the game…And now it’s like you wouldn’t believe — in 18 months…now it’s like I’ve got my home here. And that dude was Ron [one of the Street Scholars Leadership Team]. That’s what peer mentoring is.

We are excited about what is coming from this data and plan to be finished with our analysis by the end of the summer. Below are some pics of the Street Scholars Leaderhship Team in analytic action!

Marcus hard at work.

Marcus hard at work.

Victoria and Earthy have a cerebral moment.

Victoria and Earthy have a cerebral moment.

Ron deep in thought.

Ron deep in thought.

OUR NEXT STEPS

On June 14, 2013 we a had fantastic meeting at the beautiful Merritt College Landhorticultural Site.  We continued our analytic work and later two of The Gamble Institute’s (TGI) Board of Directors, Peter Small and Thomas Tartaro, joined the meeting to discuss the development of the Street Scholars model and program.  Peter and Thomas gave valuable input into the process of developing an “Owner’s Manual” that will be used as our guide for providing mentoring and training future Street Scholars mentors in how to do the work.  TGI is fortunate to have a hands-on board of directors that is committed to seeing TGI and the Street Scholars program grow.  We will be working on the “Street Scholars Owner’s Manual” over the summer and plan to have a complete version by the end of the summer.

In addition to some heavy discussion about the Street Scholars program, we also celebrated Ron Moss’s acceptance into UC Berkeley School of Social Welfare WITH a full scholarship no less!  Way to go, Ron! We are so proud of you! We love you!

TGI board members, Peter Small (on left) and Thomas Tartaro (on right) in discussion with the Street Scholars.

TGI board members, Peter Small (on left) and Thomas Tartaro (on right) in discussion with the Street Scholars.

Celebrating Ron's success!

Celebrating Ron’s success!

Earthy blowing his heart out!

Earthy blowing his heart out!

Victoria's in a celebrating kind of way!

Victoria’s in a celebrating kind of way!

THE GAMBLE INSTITUTE AND THE ASSOCIATED STUDENTS OF MERRITT COLLEGE HOST “HERMAN’S HOUSE”

On April 24, 2013, thanks to the tireless efforts of Ron Moss, TGI and the Associated Students of Merritt College (ASMC) hosted a free screening of the documentary, “Herman’s House”, about Herman Wallace who has been in solitary confinement in Angola Prison for more than 40 years.  The film follows the relationship between Herman Wallace, a man who founded a Black Panther Party chapter in Angola Prison (a true feat of activism), and Jackie Sumell, an artist who wanted to help Herman build his “dream house”.  The film addresses the injustices Herman faced and continues to face in solitary confinement, the importance of creative social action, and the transformative nature of friendship even in the most henious conditions.

More than 200 students and teachers were in attendance and the film was followed by a panel of educators, artists, and activists (including TGI!) who took questions from the audience about the inhumanity of the prison industrial complex and how education, social action, and creative action can create necessary and positive change – though, panelists and audience members alike agreed, we need A LOT MORE education and action, if we are to topple the correctional industry.

Ron Moss, the event's planner, and Dr. William Love, Merritt College Professor

Ron Moss, the event’s planner, and Dr. William Love, Merritt College Professor

Victoria speaks to the audience about Street Scholars.

Victoria speaks to the audience about Street Scholars.

Yema testifies to the inhumanity of the prison industrial complex.

Yema testifies to the inhumanity of the prison industrial complex.

A participant asks a question.

A participant asks a question.

Students in conversation with the panelists.

Students in conversation with the panelists.

STREET SCHOLARS CONTINUES ITS SCHOLARSHIP.

On April 2, 2013, the Street Scholars Leadership Team engaged 20 University of San Francisco Masters in Public Health Students in a Socratic Dialogue about bias and judgment in the health care industry. Their talk focused on how our biases and judgments as health care providers affects the care we provide to formerly incarcerated adults.  Using the Socratic process of shared inquiry, the Street Scholars led the students through clinical vignettes that allowed them explore to their judgments and preconcieved notions of people, particularly the formerly incarcerated. The students felt safe enough to share deeply held beliefs and through the group dialogue could examine those beliefs and come to new understandings of them.  It was an incredibly moving class and many of the students stated it was one the best classes they had had as part of their graduate program (GO TGI!).

Elizabeth was particularly proud of the Street Scholars as they tackled the philosophical components of the program – the Heideggarian Concept of the Person and Shared Inquiry – and made themselves vulnerable about their own histories of incarceration and addiction. This class is part of an educational and research project the Street Scholars are doing in collaboration with Dr. Meera Nosek of University of San Francisco. A paper describing the first phase of this project is currently under review with the journal, ” Nursing Philosophy”. We anticipate publication later this year.

Earthy is phenomenology all the way down!

Earthy is phenomenology all the way down!

Ron is a master of Shared Inquiry.

Ron is a master of Shared Inquiry.

Earthy in conversation with a USF student.

Earthy in conversation with a USF student.

PHEW! That’s a lot of good stuff!  Stay tuned for more later this summer!

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