Why I Wanted to Go to College

By Lawrence Pela | October 17, 2017

In prison, it’s easy to sit in the cell watching programs like Maury, Jerry Springer, and Dr. Phil, never maturing. It scared me to see how simple it was to be another CDC Number, like an old broken-down appliance that just sat in the garage collecting dust; how I too could quietly just be taking up space. Because I reject being on the yard playing basketball, working out, or telling old war stories all day, never growing, I’m in a constant search for ways to improve who I am. Even though I’m incarcerated, I want more out of life than what a prison cell offers, more than the stereotypical idea of what an inmate can achieve. I want to be my best self, which includes being active, persistent and educated. Otherwise, what purpose does my life have?

In moving forward toward achieving my goals, an education is one of the most important pieces. Growing up I was always taught that in order to be successful, you must be educated. At that time, I failed to realize that life was about more than playing sports and hanging out, that my dreams would only come to fruition if I gained the knowledge to carry them out. I now see the importance of an education, that it is the foundation of my success, providing a platform to build my career upon.

Attending college was an avenue for solving the problems of being stagnant, feeling worthless, and having nothing to strive for. My goals were now attainable, given hope through the prospect of completing my education. Prison University Project allows me to learn about more than “twerking” or “selfies,” or other topics presented on the various television programs that have no real value. I can make the most of my time by receiving information that’s progressive, beneficial to my growth and those I share it with. By furthering my education, I feel as if I’m able to contribute to my family and the rest of society. My feeling of self-worth magnifies as a result of putting in the hard work it takes to complete college courses, helping further develop as a man. This development gives me motivation. For where the absence of opportunity is, there is also the absence of motivation. As I’m able to see a chance to grow, I’m moved to take the necessary steps to do so, as is a person sitting still in darkness until a glimmer of light appears.

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