At times I feel as if I am an anomaly in both the prison setting where I reside and in my post-secondary correctional education pursuits. I say this because as I grow into a man — I’m 25 now after all — I have begun to ponder my future and what it could hold.
As those of you who know me well know, I wasn’t always the best-behaved guy. Prior to my arrival in prison I was a confused kid who had a serious alcohol and drug abuse problem. As such, all of my actions and even my very thinking occurred inside the thick fog of substance abuse. With the realization that I didn’t know or appreciate (as in value) my actions, it’s no wonder that I would end up in prison.
But these days, substances don’t fog my mind. I no longer walk through life in a confused haze tainted by toxic relationships and frivolous pursuits. After 5 years behind bars, the fog of drug abuse has subsided and my mind has matured. I am simply no longer the 18 year old senior in high school that I once was.
This internal reflection stems from a shift in my studies. When I first enrolled in college I thought I wanted to be an English major. Then I considered sociology. Since Ohio University didn’t offer a true English or sociology degree via correspondence, I enrolled in their Bachelor’s in Specialized Studies degree program. My two areas of study were English and sociology.
Though, after two years of study, I don’t have a lot to show for it. This is because the modality that Ohio University offers via correspondence education is an excessively slow one. A single course can easily take 6 to 10 months to complete because of their lesson submission policies. This is simply not working for me. I don’t want to be enrolled in college part-time. I want to have a full course load which allows me to move toward my degree at a rational pace. It is this which has prompted the shift in my studies.
Since I understand correspondence correctional education very well — I am the author of Education Behind Bars after all — I’ve come up with an innovative solution. In order to speed up my studies at Ohio University, and to take courses I fancy, I’m adding on courses from other schools which can be completed at an advanced rate of study. Then, upon completion of the courses, I can transfer the credit in to Ohio University until I’ve reached the maximum number of transfer credits.
The first external courses in which I’ve just recently enrolled are from Rio Salado College, a regionally accredited college in Arizona which has a program for incarcerated students. I’m pursuing their Certificate of Completion in Workforce Development and Community Re-Entry. This program requires completion of 6 courses, which equal a total of 13 credit hours. So, I should be able to complete this program by June of next year, a much faster pace than Ohio University allows.
These six courses actually sound really interesting. They are as follows:
•Personal Skill Development •Family Reunification •Social Skill Development •Substance Abuse Education •Job Readiness •Job Retention
Though, while all of this sounds interesting — at least to me — my own career desires have shifted yet again. These days, I’m more focused upon public relations, specifically public relations and promotional services for authors online. I think that through my own author promotional efforts I’ve been bit by the PR bug. I think that this is what I want to do when I am released from prison.
While public relations, with an emphasis on author promotions, is the field that I’m considering, the educational offerings via correspondence are slim. It appears as if this is one of those fields in which I might have to wait until I am released to fully engage. Luckily I can always read books on the topic and learn about what is effective through my own efforts.
As you can see, I might very well be heading for another shift in the focus of my studies. But I guess that’s kind of the point. Life isn’t meant to be static, but dynamic. It’s not about studying one particular area, but studying what the mind desires to learn. I suppose that as long as I’m forging ahead in my college-level studies, I’m making progress. I also suppose that Upper Iowa University’s degrees in communications, management, and marketing might be whispering to me sooner rather than later.