College Guild currently serves over 400 active students. Since our founding, we have provided educational opportunities to more than 5,200 inmates, many of whom have or had no other access to formal educational programming of any kind. We regularly hear from current students and alumni about how much a College Guild education has meant to them and receive constant confirmation that respect truly does reduce recidivism.
“CG not only helps offenders build self-esteem, it helps us to cultivate our writing, communication, and social skills (amongst other important fundamental skills), thus creating a positive change. I for one owe a great debt of gratitude to CG for their enormous contribution in helping me to see beyond now to a brighter future.”
“College Guild inspired me to be more than an inmate with an incredible bench press; that was my response to my mother when she asked, ‘What have you done lately?’ Now, I can proudly say, ‘I’m working on another trilogy.’…I have written 10 novels, numerous short stories, and poems, and it all transpired because [of] you. If it weren’t for your hard work, I would still be telling my mother, ‘I can bench press 305 pounds.’…You have put a lasting smile on my face – and for my present situation, that’s saying a lot.”
“I don’t really have any outside support or encouragement, save for what I have gotten and continue to get from the fine folks at College Guild. They’ve helped me to discover a talent for writing that I probably would’ve never found or developed on my own… Being incarcerated allows for many convenient excuses to sit back, feel sorry for yourself, and just let your mind atrophy. The College Guild courses let me do something constructive with the surplus of time I have. The readers who critique my work are honest, yet helpful and encouraging. I’ve had numerous poems and short stories accepted and scheduled for publication, and every single one of them started out as a College Guild assignment…Unless you’ve been where I am sitting (which I do not recommend), you can’t grasp the magnitude and impact of everything I get from College Guild, but I assure you that I, and many others like me, would be in a much worse place than my work with CG has enabled me to be.”
“College Guild has provided me with a purpose. I’m a writer. One who’ll someday grace the New York Times Bestseller List. And when I do, I’ll mention that it all started because [you] cared; you cared about men who wanted to be more than their crime.”
“Thank you for caring. Thank you for being in the shadows for all of us students. Thank you for the uplifting of fallen humanity and giving us wisdom and insight to remain focus[ed] on our abilities and qualities within us to achieve. Thank you for being our silent strong general and propeller of hope when all others have abandon[ed] us.”
“The prison experience begins with an attempt at de-individualization; this is done by assigning a number and issuing a uniform. The law states that confining a person is punishment enough, there need not be any other measures. Many of the prison guards do not seem to agree with the law and take it upon themselves to deliver a lesson in humiliation, degradation, and outright bullying. The Stanford Prison Experiment documents how this happens. This is quite disconcerting and will eventually have an adverse effect on a prisoner’s emotional stability. That was what happened in my case. What made it almost unbearable was knowing that I would be subject to this treatment for at least ten more years. I was close to the breaking point; I was ready to give them a damn good reason for treating me badly.
Before it got to that point I was lucky enough to find College Guild. I was one of their first students. When my first unit arrived I realized it was structured so that a person could make up his own mind about how in depth he wanted to go. I used it as an escape mechanism and gave it 100 percent. It was calming to work on a scholarly assignment. I became so engrossed that the cacophony that is a cell block would, at times, fade away for hours at a time. Bliss. I did not know it then, but the best was yet to come.
When my next unit arrived, there were also pages of commentary on my first submission. Someone had not only taken the time to read my thoughts; they had responded as if my work was relevant. They addressed me with respect. Words cannot describe the feelings and emotions at being treated as a human again. I still get choked up, just remembering the first evaluation. They were kind enough to concentrate their comments on the positive aspects.
The supportive words rekindled my joy in academe. I threw myself into the new unit. I knew the sooner I sent it, the sooner I would get their response. I continued with College Guild until I received my parole seven years later. The best days of my incarceration were the days I received a new unit with the response from the previous one. The responses were always helpful and encouraging. The fire that these wonderful people ignited still burns. I was released in November of 2009. I received my associate’s degree from Oakland Community College in August 2011 with a 4.0 GPA. Now I am a senior at the University of Michigan. My GPA has slipped to a 3.92 because of two A- grades. These professors do not seem nearly as concerned with my self-esteem as the people at College Guild. That is fine. College Guild offered their respect and support when I could not find it elsewhere. I would not be where I am without their help. I can handle it from here.”