This summer, I am interning for the Brandeis Educational Justice Initiative. The BEJI is a new initiative dedicated to engaging in liberatory practices, fostering educational access for those who have been exposed to or interacted with incarceration. Centered in a collegiate setting, this unique initiative joins the facilitation and methodological skills of Brandeis professors with the innovative and interdisciplinary minds of undergraduate and graduate students. The program currently offers a series of workshops directed at adults and adolescents who have been impacted by the justice system and incarceration.
Through a series of courses and workshops taught by graduate and undergraduate students, the BEJI creates new pathways to education for those for whom the right to education has been denied or delayed. In the coming months, new pilot programs will seek to increase campus awareness of the need for justice reform, and expand services to youth involved in incarceration.
My work this summer is directly related to the facilitation of our Partakers Empowerment Program and internal research on educational praxis and initiative advancement. The Partakers Empowerment Program is a thirteen-week course offered to adults who were previously incarcerated. Covering six learning modules, the class engages material spanning from financial literacy and professionalism to health and wellness, education, technology, and civic engagement. My unique participation in this program is to serve as the teaching assistant to the educational workshops. Together with my team, we have created a curriculum that addresses the specific needs of those previously incarcerated who are interested in education.
Part of what has been so rewarding about this program is continuously adapting our curriculum to better reflect the needs of our students from cohort to cohort. Now in our second iteration, my role has expanded from gathering educational resources and preparing them to facilitating lesson plans and prompting internal conversations about best practices for meaningful learning with our students.
In addition to this work, I am actively conducting research on how to make our program as successful and accessible as possible. Some of this work includes literature reviews on programs similar to ours and the construction of a new orientation program to be offered to onboarded volunteers this fall. These are small steps that will have a large impact on how our program is run and ensuring we do so in an accountable manner.
In order to expand the equitable and accessible goals of our program, I am also part of the teams at the BEJI who are building a website and newsletter for the initiative. Again, these are crucial steps towards making our programs and resources available to a wider audience. The images I have included in this blog are from our most recent newsletter. The logo featured in this post is brand new and is one I was responsible for creating. I am so excited to see the effect this newsletter will have in drawing students, faculty, and Boston community members alike to the BEJI.
The BEJI offers a dynamic and robust series of programs. What I have loved most about interning here is how these programs make my day-to-day responsibilities just as nuanced and engaging. As an education major, I recognize the inequities that exist in our education system. It is my belief that while making a change in this field, we must center and work from those who have been most marginalized by the world of education. For people who have experienced incarceration, access to education has been challenged. The carceral continuum, as it stands, actively interrupts and prematurely ends people’s access to education. The BEJI recognizes the power of education and is deeply invested in providing pathways to education for reentering citizens. It is because of the alignment between the BEJI’s mission statement and my own ethos on education that interning with the BEJI has been so fulfilling academically and personally.