The Tufts University Prison Initiative of Tisch College (TUPIT): Increasing access to higher education while we serve time and when we come home!
The MyTERN Program and how you can help
We teach and learn at Tufts that everyone should experience the excitement of profoundly transformative education that fosters personal growth. MyTERN has proven to be just that, a new 9-month Tufts University-accredited certificate program in Civic Studies that cultivates personal development and supports continuing education and increased employability, as well as a sense of belonging for and with people directly impacted by the criminal justice system who are no longer in prison.
A year ago, we crowdfunded for TUPIT’s new college and re-entry program to support our students coming home from prison and continuing their higher education through the Tufts Education Re-entry Network (TERN) program MyTERN.
It has been an incredible year for both the MyTERN students and the Tufts undergraduate and faculty co-learners!
Thanks to last year’s crowdfunding donations, we were able to provide each of the 8 MyTERN students with the opportunity to take 3 accredited courses at Tufts: Literatures of Justice; Financial Math and Coding; Personal Finance & Project Development and, with their new laptop, MyTERN students received extensive one-on-one tech support facilitating increased proficiency in basic computing, emails/texting, Word, Powerpoint, Excel, Google suite, and, of course, Zoom. But we are thrilled to say that although we zoomed in our numerous guest speakers, we held every class safely in-person and no one got sick. Not only that, but as you can hear from students in the video, we all learned a lot, worked hard, struggled, supported & challenged one another, and above all coalesced as an intentional community. And in the process, WE HAD A LOT OF FUN!
The new MyTERN Podcast emerged organically out of the program as a platform for amplifying the knowledge and perspectives of people impacted by incarceration. Our students spoke publicly as the new MyTERN Speakers Bureau in three different events, two at Tufts University that were open to the wider Massachusetts community and one in a national forum on Higher Education in Prison. In these conference presentations and symposia, students spoke powerfully about re-entry and education to an audience of over 100 each time.
We are also proud to say that our MyTERN certificate program graduates all plan to continue their education, and several may even start at Tufts in the fall.
NOW: FROM STUDENT TO TEACHER!
Now we need your help!
We are crowdfunding again because the first graduates of the MyTERN program are ready to transition from student to teacher, mentee to mentor, in order to support the second student cohort in the fall. As people who have navigated re-entry – and learned that re-entry is an on-going process – our MyTERN graduate mentors are, of course, the very best teachers to those impacted by incarceration and to many others as well.
We now need your help supporting these impressive students who are committed to remaining a part of this community and cultivating a community network for and with the next set of formerly incarcerated people who will gain access to no-cost high quality college education through this program.
The first set of MyTERN graduates are eager to offer their newly gained knowledge on numerous re-entry issues and to coach the second cohort of students in each person’s individual experience of re-entry. With the continued help of our community partners, and especially Project Place, mentors imagine tackling topics such as:
- securing identification;
- opening bank accounts,
- securing safe and affordable housing;
- getting a driver’s permit and learning to drive;
- reuniting with one’s family;
- loving and experiencing romantic relationships in new ways;
- working with parole and probation;
- grieving after prison;
- and, of course, redefining education and its role in our lives.
Your donations will support the success of a second set of students in MyTERN by supporting the on-going community participation and leadership skills of the first graduates by recognizing their expertise and talents:
- A multi-session mentorship training program to begin this summer and continue through the year, led by a trained professional possibly from the Tufts Center for the Excellence of Teaching and Learning.
- Financial compensation for MyTERN Mentors’ hours spent in training and working with formerly incarcerated students whose expertise is invaluable even without letters following their names… yet!
- Transportation stipends for MyTERN Mentors and for new directly impacted students.
- Laptops for our 10 new students (Yes, we are increasing the cohort size as promised last year!)
- Books and Materials for classes
- Field trip costs: museums, art galleries, theater
- Emergency fund (green cards and other identification fees, food insecurity, rent and moving support, etc.)
People returning from prisons and jails face many challenges, including lack of employment and educational opportunities, psychological trauma, threatening economic stress, social isolation, and the lack of self-esteem that results from having been incarcerated. MyTERN employs a multi-pronged, trauma-informed and community-based approach to re-entry in this hybrid educational re-entry program called MyTERN that aims to:
- Engage people holistically by offering educational opportunities guided by a commitment to individual well-being
- Facilitate a healthy social network that mitigates the isolation often experienced by people directly impacted by the justice system
- Cultivate social-emotional, intellectual, and practical skills proven to be essential to strengthening one’s candidacy for meaningful employment and continued education
- Build students’ senses of individual purpose, self-efficacy, and self-worth, as well as community belonging and accountability, by fostering relationship-building skills
- Measure success not only in decreased recidivism rates but also in the increased health and wellness of people reentering society after incarceration.
MyTERN’s 4 Tufts-accredited courses
- Civic Studies: Literatures of Justice (Literature & History & Writing)
- Technology for Civic Impact (Computer Proficiency, Word, Powerpoint, Excel, Google, email + Podcasting & Public Speaking)
- Alternating Tufts course
Spring 2021: Financial Math and Coding Basics
Spring 2022: Introduction to Acting through Improvisation
- Personal Finance and Project Development (entrepreneurship, business plans, grant and loan application support where helpful)
Why support MyTERN, especially NOW?
- In the wake of COVID-19, people releasing from prison face a DECLINING JOB MARKET, FEWER SAFER HOUSING OPPORTUNITIES, and SOCIAL ISOLATION. Additionally, both MEDICAL AND EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES ARE FAR LESS ACCESSIBLE.
- In the United States, of the 7 million adults under some form of criminal justice supervision, including incarceration, probation, and parole (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2011), 730,000 individuals are released from facilities annually (West, Sabol, & Greenman, 2010).
- People releasing face countless obstacles -- in housing, employment, mental and physical health, educational attainment, and the attainment of self-efficacy and self-confidence (Petersilia, 2003).
- As a result of these obstacles, 75% of people released from state prisons are reincarcerated within 5 years (Davis et al., 2013).
The success, talent, and drive we have seen in our current incarcerated students constantly reminds us of the power of education and the critical need for increased opportunity. Please donate today so that a cohort of people returning to society after serving their sentences will have the resources, expertise, and care that will help make success possible through this exciting and life-altering program.
We need your help now more than ever
to support the first MyTERN cohort!
WE ARE DEEPLY GRATEFUL FOR YOUR PARTICIPATION IN THIS PROJECT!