by Cyril Walrond, Roots of Success Instructor and Master Trainer
“…All things are possible to him that believes.” Mark 9:23
Teaching the Roots of Success environmental literacy curriculum here at Stafford Creek has been not only a blessing to my life but has also been an enriching privilege and honor. To teach this 10-module course in a classroom without any correctional staff, administration, or outside volunteers to sponsor it is unprecedented in the Department of Corrections. Daily it is just me and my two co-workers Grady Mitchell and David Duhaime in our classroom teaching a class of 20-30 eager incarcerated students.
They told us it could not be done, but we are doing it. They doubted that there would be any interest, but we have become one of the most sought after programs among the men at the facility. They thought that the material might be too difficult or challenging, we said let’s challenge them. Now, nearly 2 1/2 years later, we have graduated 8 classes and over 200 students. How was this done?… Through believing!
It is only through believing that we can make a difference that we can then impact our students. It is only through instilling this belief in our students, that they have something to contribute to this world, that they began to care about how they have impacted their environment and how they will impact it into the future. Looking beyond their present pain and into the future possibilities.
My co-workers and I met frequently before our first class and agreed that if we did not believe in ourselves, this curriculum, and then each other, our students would never believe in us, this curriculum, or themselves. Now we are seeing the effects of our believing on the lives of not inmates, not convicts, not offenders, but on once-broken men who are now on a conquest to make a difference as they repair their lives.
Many of our students came into class with a warped self-image. Programmed to think that prison was inevitably predestined for their lives and that this is what they were being groomed for from the time they were conceived. We assure them these lies have conditioned them to the point of complacency, stagnation, and then finally acceptance. This place of acceptance is the realm in which many of them dwell, after having accepted their plight. However, they are made for more!
This is why one of my students, who we call Radio, really touched my heart when he personally thanked me at the conclusion of this class’s graduation. “Sir, thank you. You pushed me when I did not want to move. You challenged me when I felt like giving up. You believed in me when I did not believe in myself. Even when I thought my future was hopeless, you quoted to me several times Jeremiah 29:11.”
Radio is just one of many success stories that the 3 of us laugh and joke about when times get hard and our patience may be running thin with our students. (Trust me, anyone who has ever taught knows what I mean.) But we never get discouraged by the uphill battle. We press on and continue to believe that what we are accomplishing is much bigger than any one of us. Radio is a perfect example of how our believing in our students against all odds is giving hope to the hopeless.
Sooner or later most of these men will be released. These men enter into our classroom one way and by the time that they leave their minds have been expanded beyond recognition. David, Grady, and I believe that what we are doing will transcend these walls, and society will begin to believe in the great potential held within.
“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.'” Jeremiah 29:11
These are the effects of believing! So let me ask, what are you believing for?