Publishing goal histories with incarcerated students leaves indelible mark on all involved
“We are working against three simultaneous hourglasses: students’ release from incarceration, students’ education, and the psychological time it takes for the students to understand their life history and where they want to go. In this specific way, we are seeking to improve the lives of students, the schools they attend, and society through publication of unheard voices. I feel so fortunate to be a part of this program; it has been such an affirmation for me.” -Jondou Chen, Project Coordinator, Rikers Island Oral Histories Project
By the end of his first year at Teachers College, Columbia University (TC) Jondou Chen found himself wrestling with the provider/researcher divide.
“I enjoyed learning about and practicing large-scale, quantitative social science research,” he remembered. “Yet I found myself also missing the day-to-day encounters with the individuals whose agency I sought to support.”
When his advisor, Dr. Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, suggested he apply for a Zankel Fellowship to work with the Rikers Island Oral Histories Project, Chen didn’t realize how much it would change him as a person. Now, three years later, as Project Coordinator of the Student Press Initiative’s Rikers Island program, Chen isn’t looking back.