NYU Prison Education Program Graduation Ceremony 2017

NYU Prison Education Program Graduation Ceremony 2017

November 6, 2019 3 By Stanley Isaacs


Khalan Pendelton: I dropped out of high school. I got my
GED in the county jail and, prior to entering this program, I hadn’t been in
school for more than ten years and, yet, here I am graduating college with a GPA
high enough to give you a nosebleed. And if I can do it there’s no reason why
each and every one of you can’t do the same or even greater. George Shulman: The idea is that we,
over several years, designed an NYU AA degree that would be offered in classes
to incarcerated people. Science class, writing class, humanities, Social Sciences and so on to complete an Associate’s degree which is half of a Bachelor’s
degree. The New York State Correctional Authority assigned us Wallkill prison,
which is upstate in Newburgh, New York it’s about transforming their life in ways that are so radical. It’s not a continuation of what they have always expected. This is a commitment on their part when they apply to this program to
radically change their lives. Jose Diaz: Essentially, my world basically opened up when a teacher had faith in me, you know, she trusted and had faith in my skill set. It basically not only encouraged me, but also my confidence and allowed me to see that I have within myself something that’s worth value and that I could do
more. Vincent Thompson: I definitely can feel myself changing I can feel myself learning about new things that I haven’t learned about. Gave me a whole different perspective on the world. I dropped out of school in eighth grade so
having a chance to really get a degree now shows that when you slip you can definitely get up. Shulman: For many of them, prison has become an opportunity. They
have made it an opportunity to reflect on the path of their lives and the
structures shaping their lives. There is this grappling with individual
responsibility that is really powerful and they’re thinking about what stance
to take toward their past, which is a problematic past and how can they turn
it to some use and move forward. Andrew Hamilton: I have been to many graduation ceremonies in my time, but let me tell you, none of them—none of them— are as special as this one. The Prison Education Program is a shining example of NYU’s founding ideal of opportunity. Research has shown that higher education programs
in prisons are one of the most effective ways that inmates can put themselves on
a path to a better future. You have achieved something truly exceptional and
you’ve earned the admiration of all of us. Pendelton: You know, I’m not really sure how to start off a graduation speech so I’ll just begin by saying that this journey all started with a horrible author by the name of Herman Melville, who I hope that many of you never have to endure. I’m kidding, I’m kidding. Roy Burvick: Now I know I’m not the valedictorian, but I feel like it so I’m going to enjoy my 2 minutes of fame. First I’d like to start by thanking NYU staff and family members for coming up
there and also administration for making this moment happen. I’m very grateful. Ryan Burrell: My two and a half years in this program was rough. There were many times when I
wanted to give up and just say forget it, I don’t want to do this no more. But a
lot of my brothers around here were the ones who motivated me. Thompson: The education I got from this program brought my vision to life. Today I’m glad to say I got a new set of eyes. I, now, can understand the world that we live in better, and understand my new beginning better. These new skills I acquired:
critical thinking, communication, and leadership are skills that I’m going to
use to drive me to success throughout my life. After 28 years on this earth, I
finally know the points of education, and I’m addicted to it. Danis Flores: I don’t think the same as I used to think 12 years ago, you know, and basically it’s like I’m hungry! I’m hungry.
I never been hungry in my life, you know, and I’m really hungry for my freedom and
I’m hungry my future, you know, so thank you. Shulman: I have such admiration for these guys. They have really taken responsibility for their lives. Well I think it’s pretty special.