View from the center — Reentry + education = success
Belfast — Education is a word that can have many different definitions, but the one that I like the most is this one: The act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.
This strikes me as a great way to generalize what we are trying to achieve while here at the reentry center. To prepare oneself for the life outside of prison walls we need to look to others, and within ourselves for proper education and guidance. The community of Belfast has been instrumental in helping men at the reentry center take advantage a variety of educational opportunities, and I would like to use this week’s column to thank some of those individuals.
First I would like to point out the great services that adult education has provided. Carolyn Haskell is the program coordinator and instructor for Regional School Unit 20 and she has provided educational services to us for a couple of years now. I couldn’t tell you how many of us have received our GEDs or diplomas because of her encouragement and dedication, but I’m willing to say that it’s a lot. Carolyn also has quite the team behind her as well — Laura Flagg, Margaret Wilson and Marty Price are all part of what is called the College Connection.
The College Connection is a program of Belfast Adult and Community Education that offers high quality, cost-effective and accessible pathways to post-secondary education for adults. I had the privilege of working with the College Connection team at the Hutchinson Center last semester and it literally changed my life. I am now taking college classes toward a degree in behavioral science as a result. So I want to say thank you to them all for their guidance.
Another program in Belfast that works closely with us is the Restorative Justice program. There is a long list of the services that Restorative Justice provides, so many that I would have to dedicate a whole column to their cause. The service that we are closely related to at the reentry center is their mentoring program. Once you reach a certain level at the reentry center you get assigned a mentor. Mentors are described as advisers, preceptors, monitors, councilors, tutors etc. They are there to help educate and guide you as needed, or maybe just be someone to have a cup of coffee with and talk.
Recently there were a couple of mentors that drove guys to University of Maine to take a tour of the school. To me that is a great service to the individual as well as the community. Sometimes we even get called on by our mentors or our peers to give back to the community.
This week I will have a chance to talk at a meeting at city hall about juvenile substance abuse, and last week I talked to the drug court team in Hancock County about the possibility of housing for clients. I owe a lot of these opportunities to my education. Whether it was education through life experiences or education through books, it is education none the less. And it's an asset I value a lot.
I encourage all the residents at the reentry center to take a chance on themselves and their future. If they take advantage of the resources available, they may surprise themselves. Who knows? One of them might be writing this column someday.
I would also like to encourage the public to educate themselves and each other. With this we will all hopefully build a better understanding of ourselves and each other. I wish I had enough room to thank everyone who has helped and educated us, but you know who you are and we thank you.
If there is anyone who would like to help tutor our guys you can e-mail me at email@example.com and we can arrange for you to help. If you would like to know more about Restorative Justice or how to become a mentor, visit their website at rjpmidcoast.org.