Inmate facilitators shared their life story with college students in a three-day seminar at CTF.

Helping to Transform Lives: Hartnell College Students attend seminar delivered by inmates

By Renee Barnes, Matthew Braden and Jason Bryant

In mid-March, the Correctional Training Facility (CTF) in Soledad hosted its fifth Leadership4Life (L4L) seminar for 45 Ethnic Studies students from Hartnell Community College.  The event was organized and delivered by the Phoenix Alliance, an Inmate Leisure Time Activity Group on Facility C.

The seminar began with 16 inmate-facilitators sharing their life stories with the students by offering candid accounts for the poor choices that resulted in their incarceration.  They then went on to describe the personal transformations they experienced from adopting a responsible perspective for their lives.

Throughout the three-day event, Hartnell students were invited to 1) explore empowering perspectives concerning personal responsibility, 2) practice authentic trust in relationships, and 3) identify the value of developing clear action steps for their future goals.

The students were also offered an unusual, first-hand account of prisoners’ perspectives about mass incarceration and the need for addressing systemic issues from a posture of personal responsibility, authentic trust and love.  The Phoenix Alliance’s Leadership4Life seminar proved to be a valuable contribution to the students of Hartnell and it reinforced the ever-growing partnership between CTF-Soledad and a prominent local community college.

At the request of Ethnic Studies professors Hermelinda Rocha and Nereida Oliva, the Leadership4Life seminar was incorporated into the fall semester’s Ethnic Studies curriculum.  The Phoenix Alliance is currently constructing a Quest follow-up program for the students that will run throughout the remainder of the semester.

It is both Hartnell and the Phoenix Alliance’s goal to make Leadership4Life a permanent addition to the college’s curriculum and deliver the seminar to a new cohort of students every semester.

The Phoenix Alliance acknowledged that the success of the program was enhanced by the contributions and support of their Community Sponsor Renee Adams-Barnes, Primary Sponsor Norma Calderon, the Ethnic Studies professors Hermelinda Rocha and Nereida Oliva, Crop Program Director Eugene Dey, and the CTF Administration.