WLU Inside-Out program renewed

Inside Out - Joshua Awolade online

Graphic by Joshua Awolade

This month Wilfrid Laurier University celebrated the renewal of its Inside-Out program.
The program combines students who are enrolled at a university or college and students who are incarcerated, to create an alternate and more interactive learning environment.

It serves to educate and benefit students through credit and provide a valuable learning experience.

“This was the most rewarding experience that I have had, simply because the learning went beyond the books; the learning went into my life,” said Umair Ashraf, a recent Laurier global studies graduate who participated in the Inside-Out program this past year.

“It was more focused on developing as a human being, developing as a member of society.”

A number of students apply to the Inside-Out program each year, however only a few are accepted. Due to the high demand, the instructors are required to do interviews and select just 12 students from Laurier, and partner them with 12 incarcerated students to participate in the program.

The program originated in Pennsylvania, and has since moved across Canada, beginning with a pilot course at Laurier in Fall 2011.

According to Inside-Out coordinator Simone Davis, it all started when Lori Pompa, a social worker who was also teaching criminal studies in the justice department, brought a group of criminology students to have a panel discussion with men who were serving light sentences.

One individual suggested she further the dialogue, and this was when the program was born in the U.S.

“In Canada I came up here with the idea in mind in 2009, and I was soon reaching out to all sorts of people,” Davis explained.

Davis partnered up with Shoshana Pollock, a member of the social work faculty at Laurier, in order to get training on the Inside-Out program.

Shortly after the program took off in Canada, and started to receive funding from the Lyle S. Hallman Foundation.

The foundation is the core financial supporter of the program, and has invested just over $560,000 in the initiative.

The funding from the foundation has also allowed Laurier to become Inside-Out’s home-base, which began in July 2012.

“We were really impressed with the way that it brings groups of people together who normally would never get to know each other,“ said Laura Manning, executive director of the Lyle S. Hallman Foundation.

“It takes Laurier students into an environment that they would typically never see, and it allows the incarcerated women to experience what is essentially a regular university class, which is something they may not have ever had access to.”

According to Davis, there has been a decline of access to post-secondary education for incarcerated people since the mid-1990s, and it is therefore important that they are allowed this opportunity to engage in dialogue with regular post-secondary students.

“We are really impressed with what Laurier has managed to do there, and really proud to help broaden them out,” Manning said.

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