Students Gain Life Lessons from CEO Experience
by Vanessa Montano – CEO Instructor
…. Advice offered for future Student Volunteers
VANESSA: What lessons have you taken away from your time with CEO?
ELLEN: I have learned that ex-convicts are simply just people. I have humbled myself by working with them. It has made me see everyone deserves a second chance. We shouldn’t judge them by their experiences. It doesn’t mean that they are bad people and it doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t live and learn in our society. I have seen how hard the transition is from prison to the real world. It has helped me and inspired me in my own education. I have learned so much from CEO I can’t put it into words.
KATIE: It has broken my stereotype of ex-felons. I always thought, “They are where they are because they deserve it,” but they are good people and I have had to rethink. I understand their struggle of getting back into society. Society can be callous towards ex-offenders. I feel like CEO has really shown me a different side.
KRISTEN: I am thinking about doing something in criminal rehabilitation. CEO has mostly taught me how service works. I feel like too often people are on two different sides of the spectrum. There are people who feel really bad for clients, and there are those who believe they made their own poor decisions. I feel like I am right in the middle of that. They made choices that put them there, but we do not know what their lives were like before that. It helped me understand my role in service. I am there to help them not to accuse them of anything or feel bad for them.
VANESSA: Any words of advice for future Regis Students or volunteers?
ELLEN: Just be as open and honest as you can. While you are serving, do it with your head and heart and you will get the most out of it. Be open to new experiences and get to know the clients on more of a personal level and you will grow the most in your experience. Also, don’t leave your personality at the door.
KATIE: Confidence! If you don’t know what you’re doing ask, people will tell you. Clients have taught me math. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t know the answer. It is part of making the relationship. Also, don’t go in just to tutor. Go to get to know people. When you are gone, all that is left is the relationship.
KRISTEN: Be open to making connections. Come in confident about what you are doing and enthusiastic and things will go a lot better. Don’t be hesitant about what you’re doing.
VANESSA: Finally, you are all working on a spring project that involves giving a presentation to our clients on the importance of higher education. Tell me about that.
ELLEN: It was Kristin’s idea. We were talking about what would be most beneficial to them and where we can connect with them on a more personal level. Higher education is something we are passionate about. We all come from different backgrounds but we all have education in common. It would bring a lot of self-confidence and self-worth to their lives.
KATIE: Kristen told me about it in class and I thought it was a great idea. Sometimes I’m asked, “Do you go to college?” When you have a higher goal after the GED it opens so many possibilities. It is exciting when you are accepted. It gives them the opportunity to take something they are passionate about and live out their lives doing it.
KRISTEN: Many of the clients have the mentality that they will just get their GED. They might think it is a little pointless. If they had another goal in mind, it might help them. It is hard to get a job when you just have a high school diploma or GED, and even harder when you also have a felony. It might help employers decide to give them chance if they know they have higher education.