Welcome of Dionna Morton as Re-Entry Liaison
We’d like to warmly welcome Dionna Morton as UPEP’s new Re-Entry Liaison! In this role, Dionna will assist the project in developing more robust post-incarceration supports and infrastructure. We sat down with Dionna to ask a few questions about the importance of education and re-entry support.
Q: What does transformative education mean to you?
A: Transformative education allows us to see ourselves, others, or surroundings and our world from a better perspective...our own, and not one we are conditioned with. It gives us the ability to think autonomously and not strictly by what we have been spoon fed through generational habits, family/religious/societal beliefs, but through our own independent lens. Through transformative education we get the opportunity to overcome negative thought patterns instilled in us by so many others whether intentional or not. Example, I used to love the saying "I'm going after everything they said I couldn't have!" At first glance it's motivating, but transformative education teaches us "I'm going after what I want, period, who are ‘they’ anyways!" I believe in me, I don't need an imaginary "they" to tell me who/what I am or what I do or don't deserve. Transformative education opens up the world to us, on our terms.
Q: Why did you choose to stay involved with UPEP?
A: I chose to stay involved in UPEP because I have always wanted to make a positive impact on people's lives. UPEP has changed my life for the better by showing me I so deserved to be cared about, I still deserved an education, I was still worth it for people to take time out of their days to allow me an education during my incarceration. It wasn't just the standard "school" education that made the difference, it was the love, compassion, and concern that was shown to all of us! Every single teacher, volunteer, staff, every person involved has shown us the basic need to be accepted and treated humanely. UPEP offers more than just education, it offers a better way of life to those of us it impacts. I want to be a part of that for as long as I can be!
Q: Why does re-entry support matter?
A: Re-Entry support is so important because first and foremost, no one should have to be alone in taking the first steps outside of prison. Speaking from personal experience, it is scary, intimidating, and sometimes downright soul crushing to have to navigate the "free world" after incarceration. My self-esteem was shot, my self confidence was gone, I had little to no help in finding resources, and I was rejected left and right for housing! Every day felt like an uphill climb. There is so much that needs to happen and so little support to make it happen. I am so thankful that Dr. Castro and Dr Cindy Fierros were and still remain a positive and strong support for me and my family. The kindness I was shown by UPEP staff, faculty, and volunteers has been the same even after I transitioned back into society. Education is the greatest asset anyone can have and when you have demands from the parole board, your parole officer, family, friends, job searching, trying to find housing, etc, education will always be pushed to the back burner. If we give the support to those individuals who want and need it after such a traumatic experience as prison, then the likelihood of continuing our education becomes higher, our chances of regaining self-confidence and self-esteem becomes higher and our overall chances of success on many levels becomes greater.