William Blackwell

The Opportunity to Be a Living Example: On Becoming a Teaching Assistant

By William Blackwell | October 28, 2019

Published in the November 2019 newsletter, which you can read in its entirety here.

In 2017 I graduated from the College Program with a GPA of 3.22. Thereafter, I found myself involved with the teaching assistant program because I desired to give back to a community that has given me, and others like me, so much. My pursuit of higher education has given me insight into the illiteracy and learning disabilities that once arrested my mental and educational development, which resulted in me succumbing to the psyche of the streets, crime, and gang subcultures of society.

During my 25 years of incarceration, I’ve witnessed thousands of juvenile men of color who entered the prison system, as I did at 16, and came from a subculture that gave them the same thing it gave me: the generational inheritance of being psychologically enslaved to a mindset of the sociopath and psychopath.

This antisocial behavior that clouds over the subcultures of our society ignites within me a passion to strive for positive change—not just for myself, but for all who are affected by a system that dishonors and devalues human life and its right to thrive healthy and happy.

Becoming a teaching assistant and tutor has allowed me the opportunity not only to assist new students in their education, but also to have a platform to create positive dialogue to challenge the mindset of men who hold dear to antisocial behavior. It is through higher education endeavors and my passion for positive change that I seek to obtain my BA and master’s in juvenile justice and counseling.

My experience and observations as a student and teaching assistant have given me the ability to recognize new students’ strong and weak points in their learning skills, and have given me the opportunity to be a living example for new students to see what higher education can achieve. It is important that incarcerated students witness men, like them, incarcerated, who have achieved their college degrees, and are now displaying their educational transformation in the form of a civil servant, with a genuine heart to give back to the community.

Please note that the Prison University Project became Mount Tamalpais College in September 2020.