- MONDAY POST - Drawing to a Close

Casey, a student at U of O, is just finishing up her Inside-Out class at Oregon State Penitentiary (Restorative Justice with Nathaline Frener). She was kind enough to share what she said at her class' closing ceremony (edited for brevity). How did you feel at the conclusion of your Inside-Out course? How has that experience informed what you've since done? Share in the "comments" section of this post! Walking into the activities room on the first Monday the air was filled with pre-conceived notions. Questions were flooding my mind: Would I get past security? Who would my classmates be? What would they think of me? What would I think of them? Would it be awkward? Would my palms be clammy when I shake the hands of my new classmates? The first face I saw was Ben’s. The genuine smile and warm handshake he gave me, made me feel at ease. Then Doug walked in and sat next to me, I could tell we were both nervous, but it was at that moment through simple conversation and laughter when my judgements strayed and the lines that I thought would separate us became blurred. They no longer existed to me. Today to me sitting in this room we are all learners, we are all thinkers, and we are all friends.

When I heard that I would be speaking for the final ceremony of the class. I was honored, but I also was nervous. How would I be able to sum up my experience and what this class truly meant to me in just five minutes? Two classes ago when I started to gather my thoughts about what I wanted to reflect on in my speech I took some time to look around and really pause and reflect on what this experience has mean to me. What I realized is that I can travel to the corners of the world in search of understanding cultures and people that surround me. I can read novels and be inspired through words of famous authors. I can paint pictures and take photographs to create works of art. And I can be brave, I can be strong, and I can be trusting in an atmosphere that is so misunderstood in society and learn some of the greatest and most meaningful lessons.

Even before this class started I had a passion for education. I believe that education is a right for everyone in our society and now more than ever I believe that to its fullest extent. Every single person sitting in this room has a mind and imagination so strong and incredible. Everyone sitting in this room is smart and impressionable and I am honored to not only call you my classmates, but my friends.

I wouldn’t trade my experience in this class for anything. I have learned more in these ten weeks then I have in any class I’ve ever taken, any country I’ve ever traveled to, and any book I’ve ever read. This class has given me hope for the world. Each of us, a different mold, a different shape, with different backgrounds right now represents the completed puzzle. From the outside looking in many can’t understand it, and from the inside looking out many can’t describe it. But it is complete and each line, contour and connection will forever be remembered.

- Casey, current (soon-to-be former) 'outside' student U of O