In July, four SL staff (Travis, Kelly, Naomi, & Jeff) traveled to visit two prisons in North Dakota to kick off our new arts and personal development program, the Shining Light Academy. Read more about it below...
Have you ever accompanied someone on their first flight? Late in July, we asked Naomi, (who happens to be 71 years old), if she would go along to North Dakota, as one of the facilitators in our upcoming SL program there. Without hesitation, she said "Yes." Only later did we discover that she had never been on an airplane!
While she felt pretty nauseous on the first leg of the trip, by the time we returned to Philadelphia she felt like an experienced traveler. She is looking forward to her next flight.
Our mission was to meet with men at the North Dakota State Penitentiary and the James River Correctional Center to kick off SL's new arts and personal development program, the SL Academy. To the prisons' residents, we were just another set of visitors - until we introduced Naomi. While it is hard to shock men in prison, her statement that she had spent 37 years in prison brought a visible reaction, and with it, their immediate respect and full attention.
As if that wasn't enough, we then introduced SL Academy facilitators Dennis and Lee Horton who had joined the meeting by videoconference. They shared that their life without parole sentences were recently commuted after 28 years of incarceration. The men in the circle had an unending stream of questions for Naomi, Dennis, and Lee about their successful re-entry process.
The Academy continues in North Dakota by video conference with 5 groups of 5-6 residents who will each have 2-hour sessions twice a week for 14 weeks. The participatory sessions will include identifying and using personal strengths, creative writing, character development, collaborative playwriting, and the Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP). In addition to Naomi, Dennis, and Lee, our facilitators for this program include Rachel (a theatre professor from Los Angeles), Angelica (an actor and writer from NYC), and Travis (our Positive Psychology practitioner, also from LA).
New technology in prisons is opening many new opportunities. Thank you for helping make this possible.
Jeff & the SL Staff
P.S. Your support is also enabling us to discuss potentially bringing Academies to prisons in Ohio, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania. We look forward to this new, ongoing tool to help men and women become contributors to their communities in prison and when they return to society.
www.shining-light.com | 717-867-5472