On June 24, we hosted our first annual commencement ceremony inside the San Quentin Chapel after 7 long years of celebrating in a visiting room. Mount Tamalpais College congratulated twenty students who received their Associate of Arts degrees surrounded by family, friends, fellow students, MTC staff and board members, as well as other supporters.
2022 Valedictorian John Levin gave a speech that was by turns funny, profound, and inspiring to all in the room. Read or watch below to hear about how the classroom became and reamined a place of safety throughout his life, and his words of hope and pride in his fellow graduates.
The greatest challenge I had to overcome was being able to remember all the knowledge for each course so that I could pass the midterms and finals. Due to a brain injury my memory is bad but I learned how to study to pass all my exams. Every student MTC is someone who is trying to better themselves by furthering their education, and by bettering themselves they will be able to better the communities they return to.
If I was to give any student advice about college, I would say look at learning as another component of a healthy lifestyle. It’s not just working out and eating healthy that helps us maintain our wellness, but what we put in our brain.
MICHAEL K. MOORE
My self esteem has skyrocketed. I now feel that I am in an elite circle of individuals who have been exposed to a higher level of education giving me much more confidence in my abilities to achieve greater levels of excellence. Students at Mount Tamalpais College are receiving and continue to receive the best college education that is available to anyone who is incarcerated in the United States, by far.
The proudest moment as a student is when I passed chemistry with a B-. I was always telling myself that all I want to do is pass with a C. But my hard work is going to study hall every chance I got. I felt good when I passed Chemistry with a grade higher than a C. I learned that if you apply yourself and stop with the negative talk that I experienced in my elementary classes that I wont never get it or that I’m stupid. I can be a better student if I’m willing to learn
The most significant impact Mount Tamalpais College has had on my education is the broadening of my world view. I attributed this in large part to the wonderful diverse backgrounds of my fellow students and the perspectives they share during each and every class I’ve participated in.
What has changed for me since getting an education at MTC is how I think about, approach, and solve problems. Education has impacted my view of the world by opening up my mind to other countries and history other than the US.
I have several degrees. MT Tam has helped me to see the world differently, more inclusively. Many of my degrees are correspondence. The classroom offers interactive conversations and sharing of ideas, and the professors facilitate that. I appreciate others more.
MICHAEL W. MOORE
Education proved to me that the challenges I have faced in my life are not mine alone due to the structure of my personal life experiences. Where I was embarrassed to share the challenges of a dysfunctional childhood home and felt like I was outside the mainstream of society, the college experience showed me that my experiences are shared by most everyone. Education impacted my view of the world and my place within it by showing me that I am an integral member of the community and have an effect on the community whether I like it or not.
My college education has opened my eyes to how the world works. I had blamed racism for the most of the causative factors that created slums, and pits poor people against each other. However, through studying history, I learned that money is the motivating factor. I also learned how our government works and how to change laws. In sum, my education has made me a citizen.
For someone who gave up on school at around age 12, and almost never did any homework to do all these assignments, to turn in all this work on time-mostly, is so fundamentally huge for me. I was almost functionally illiterate, from a lack of applying myself, but I learned to actually put together a college level paper that got a passing grade. WOW.
The greatest challenge I overcame as a student was being efficient with time. You’d think in prison there would be less distractions endeavoring towards a degree and you’d be mistaken. I learned that I can persevere and receive help as I achieve a goal.
What I found out was what ultimately allowed me to change my own historical narrative of being trapped by my own fears… If I hadn’t attended that very first English 101 course taught by Ms. Richards, I would have never discovered what had kept me out of a college classroom for decades.