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How Mom’s Letter Affects Commencement Speech — From Prison: NPR

Youssef Pierce is a California graduate.

Writing a graduation speech is a difficult task. Are you funny or honest? Do you want to talk or give some advice? For California graduate Youssef Pierce, the task of putting together his public address was a bit more challenging.

“Because I’m inside, I can’t really see other graduation speeches,” says Pierce. He is speaking on the phone from within the California Rehabilitation Center, a medium-security prison in Norco. “I was trying to come up with something that sounded like a graduation speech.”

He is the first person to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. Inside-out program At Pizza College, a liberal arts school on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Schools usually take traditional students to prison by bus and take classes with the students in prison.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, these classes are conducted online. Pierce shared Zoom Square with 10 other men, all wearing CRC blue uniforms and sitting at classic classroom desks with chairs and tables. This spring, his class included topics such as male feminism, microeconomics, and mass imprisonment.

In one of the recent evening classes this spring, Professor Nigel Boyle asks each student what they are looking forward to doing that week. Pierce replies, “I’m looking forward to doing a lot of homework!”

“Every professor wants Youssef in your class,” says Boyle, who leads an inside-out program and teaches Pierce’s Wednesday night class about mass imprisonment. “You want the student to be cheerful and not only to work, but to help bring others in.”

It was only natural that Pierce would be one of the university graduation speakers.

“We don’t classify student speakers as valedictorians,” Boyle explains. “But it happens that Youssef has 4.0 and he has a really interesting story.”

Earrings are in their early 30s, a little nerdy and a class leader. He also writes poetry and paints. “It’s true that oppression often requires individuals to make themselves extraordinary, simply to survive,” his artist’s statement said. Online exhibition of his work“My picture is the whole conversation on canvas.”

After all, he says he wants to be a college professor and works with a student who was previously imprisoned.

“That’s why he wants my job, and he’ll be much better than me,” Boyle says with a laugh.

Boyle serves as an academic advisor to all imprisoned students, becomes a piercing mentor, and guides the graduation process. In one of the last classes of the semester, Boyle wears his blue hat and gown and hosts an instant fashion show that gives students looking away from the camera a big picture of his clothes. ..

The men inside cheer and whistle. A man shouts, “Spin.” “Beautiful! Beautiful!” Another cry.

When the cheers disappear, Boyle looks for earrings on the screen. “He doesn’t know this, so it might be a little surprising, but Youssef, you too will receive these codes,” he tells the class. He hangs a dark orange string on his shoulder. “These codes are for students who graduate with a degree. Congratulations, Youssef, graduating as an honor student.”

*** ***

The story of Youssef Pierce being involved in classes at these colleges and in prison begins with trauma. When he was a teenager, his brother was shot and killed. “He was killed in the front yard of our house, right in front of my face, so I had to call my mother and let her know what had happened,” he explained. I will. Years later, that’s what he doesn’t want to talk about. He considered putting it in his graduation speech, but took it out, worried that it might be too much for his mom to hear.

“It had a traumatic effect on us all,” Dorochel Pierce tells me on the phone from her home in Victorville, California. She remembers Youssef’s changes at that time.

“It was like happening one after another. He got into a little trouble. He allowed the people he was involved to influence him in a direction other than him.” Youssef Graduated from high school, but was arrested in his early twenties and convicted of armed robbery. Drochelle Pierce says she was by her side when she learned that his decision would be nearly 20 years old. “To be honest, I never imagined that Youssef would go to jail. Never, never. Never.”

A few months after Youssef’s imprisonment, she wrote to him. “I did what I did,” she wrote. “You must now be more enthusiastic about seeking and acquiring higher education than ever before.”

It wasn’t a new message. Education has always been at the heart of her relationship with Youssef. I remember riding in a car with my mom who opened a sociology textbook on her lap when she was young. “She didn’t let me turn on the radio,” he says. “She will have me read her.”

“Oh, I made it [my kids] Drochelle Pierce said, “Read everything. If they read it out loud, they knew they were reading it. That’s what they were actually reading. Is the only way I know. “

Today, the two talk on the phone almost every day. “He has always been a deep thinker,” says Pierce. She knows she sounds like a typical proud mother, but she can’t help it. “Youssef is very smart.”

In California College lessons can reduce imprisonmentSo when Youssef Pierce first had the opportunity to take a course in prison, it just felt like a way to achieve his goals. “I want to go home sooner,” he remembers joking with a friend at the time. “If they give us a vacation to go to college, I’ll leave here with a PhD!”

But by the time Pitzer College began offering bachelor’s degree classes, Pierce was surprised that he really liked college.

“I liked it because it gave me verification,” he says. “To find out that someone was reading mine and someone felt that what I was thinking and writing was worth something. I was really crazy about that verification and it really made me I changed it to overkill, and I just took the class after class after class “

The drive was rewarded.

After rewriting some drafts, Pierce gave his final graduation speech on May 15th. Hundreds of pizza graduates and their families and friendsWhat content did he land on? The letter that his mom sent to him many years ago.

“I saved this letter because I was at the time sharing it with everyone today,” he says. He wore a white hat and gown, dressed in a Kente stole, and spent time in a prison classroom. He spent a lot of time in the background. “It says,’Dear son, I was very happy to see you on Monday …'”

When I read the letter aloud, my mother, who is a big fan of poetry, Invictus, William Ernest Henry’s poem. The piercing looks directly at the camera while reading. He knows this part from the bottom of his heart.

In the night that covers me
Black as a pit from pole to pole,
Thank you to any god
For my unconquerable soul.

With a clutch in a bad situation
I don’t frown or cry aloud.
Under an accidental beating
My head is full of blood, but I haven’t bowed.

Beyond this place of anger and tears
The approaching but shady fear,
Still years of threat
Don’t be afraid to find and will find me.

It doesn’t matter how straight the gate is.
How to punish scrolls,
I am my destined master:
I am the captain of my soul.

Drochelle Pierce got together and watched a speech on his laptop at home. “We were all crying. We were just boohoo. It was very sweet,” she says.

Last line of poetry:

It doesn’t matter how straight the gate is or how to punish the scroll. / I am the master of fate: / I am the captain of my soul.

“I like it very much,” she says. “I sent it because I wanted my son to think,’OK, I’m here. It’s really up to you what’s going to happen.'”

She is proud of her son and is inspired by him. “Look at what he did. He turned the bad situation into a very, very positive one. Here he got his degree and graduated.”

How Mom’s Letter Affects Commencement Speech — From Prison: NPR

Source link How Mom’s Letter Affects Commencement Speech — From Prison: NPR

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