Ronald B @ DeCal

Cal Students: Learning, Teaching, and Giving Back

The evening of February 24th had members of the BOSS staff, Gwen Austin and Ronald Broach, making a presentation to Cal Students about the importance of education, hard work, and second chances.

Every school year the BOSS Development Team works with UC Berkeley to identify a particularly motivated Cal student to work as a Social Justice Intern. For the 2015/2016 school year that person is Calixtho. As an assignment for the Teach in Prison (TIP) class, in which Calixtho is enrolled, student tutors were asked to invite formerly incarcerated individuals to come to the class and to speak about their experiences inside prison, their transition back into their communities, and the work they now do to help other folks through their reentry. Ronald Broach was the perfect candidate. As Calixtho stated it, “I mentioned to my peers about his (Broach’s) involvement with BOSS and the amazing work that the organization does in aiding the reentry population; but most importantly, how Ronald is the representation of what the outcome of giving formerly incarcerated folks a second chance is all about.”

Ronald brought the students not only his personal experiences as an inmate, mentor, and case manager for BOSS, but also articles and demographics on incarceration in the US. His purpose, and the goal of Calixthe, was to show how incarceration grossly disproportionately affects impoverished communities, particularly communities of color. Ronald and Gwen focused heavily on the history of how and why this has happened.

The DeCal program is an experience unique to Cal. DeCal stands for Democratic Cal, a series of courses offered to all Cal students about a range of topics from language and culture, to marketing, to the history of basketball in Los Angeles. The thing that makes it truly unique is that the topics are chosen and taught by students. It is an interactive course that relies heavily on collaborative work and out-of-the-box thinking.

Within this unique structure the Teach in Prison course is a stand out. According to their website:

Since 2000, the Teach in Prison DeCal has taken University of California, Berkeley undergraduates to tutor inside San Quentin State Prison. In cooperation with San Quentin’s Warden’s office, the Robert E. Burton Adult School, and UC Berkeley, Cal students have been helping inmates work toward their academic goals in a professional, compassionate manner.

The course consists of two main components: once a week students tutor inmates inside the prison, and once a week they attend the on-campus class where they learn about the current issues affecting the California prison system. Students also get a crash course in how to effectively tutor given the challenges of working in an untraditional academic setting.

The TIP mission is to help inmates gain the intellectual skills, work ethic, and professional demeanor to aid a successful reentry in the workforce and society.

This is a deeply important class that teaches about communities and lives that some students  may otherwise have never encountered or understood. It also gives other students the opportunity to share their stories and lives. This is how we create understanding. This is how we Turn Lives Around.

BOSS is so appreciative of UC Berkeley and her departments and student organizations for all the work they do and the collaboration they offer to BOSS. We could not do this work without you.