Cassandra Vera, from Room for Dreams California, speaks with inmates at Sierra Conservation Center.

By Lt. Robert Kelsey, AA/PIO
Sierra Conservation Center

Cassandra “Cassie” Vera from Room for Dreams California recently visited Sierra Conservation Center (SCC) to announce the winner of an essay contest. The contest consisted of letters submitted by inmates at SCC for a dream-room makeover for their child.

She spoke to a room full of inmates telling the story of why the Room for Dreams program was started by her sister in Texas. She expressed her excitement in bringing this opportunity to the inmates at SCC.  She spoke of hardships in people’s lives and how even when things are bleakest there is always hope.

Cassandra Vera congratulates essay winner Walter Pogue.

She talked about Room for Dreams California existing to design and create new bedroom spaces for deserving children with a mission to provide an avenue for incarcerated fathers to provide a dream room makeover to their child. She also said they deliberately use items that have been discarded, forgotten, or damaged and restore their value and purpose during the process to hopefully change the inmates altered perception of their own individual value and worth.

“It’s about the connection of value and worth between the inmate and his family. We are here to provide a voice for the father and hopefully turn a difficult situation into a positive for their child,” she said.

Following her presentation she announced the first winner of the Room for Dreams California essay contest as inmate Walter Pogue.

As his name was announced, he threw his arm in the air as if to say, “Hey that’s me”. Simultaneously the room full of inmates erupted in claps and cheers. Pogue was visibly moved by the response from his fellow inmates and the honor of winning the opportunity to give something so significant to his child.

“I’m very excited and happy to provide this to my son,” Pogue said. “I hope others can use this and see it as an opportunity to be involved with their children regardless of their circumstances.”

He said he has not always been the best father or provider but in recent years, he’s made strides to change his relationship with his son. Vera has since connected with the mother of Pogue’s son to begin the process of designing the room – his son’s dream room.