A Summer Away From Home

"Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others."


I stared at the inmates crowding the courtyard in front of me and began to wonder what I was doing in a prison. My visit was for three weeks during which I was tasked with helping teach computer code to inmates in San Francisco’s San Quentin State Prison. While some might consider this internship unique or see the opportunity as a potentially transformative experience, I felt indifferent about it -- immensely different.

Before I walked through those prison gates, I had heard countless people gush about the impact that volunteering had on them and how it had changed their lives for the better, yet I never saw it that way. I never felt as if I was making a real difference. With help from prison guards perched above me, I made my way into a decrepit brick building and greeted the program supervisor. We reviewed my role and as he left the room to retrieve something for me, I peered into the classroom full of inmates just across the hall. Wearing bright blue jumpsuits, the inmates displayed a variety of tattoos that in many cases ran along their necks and faces. I stuck out like a sore thumb. “Here’s a whistle to use if anything goes wrong,” the supervisor said as he re-entered the room, managing to erase what little comfort I had...

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