On my first visit to our classroom, I was taken back a bit about how spacious it felt. Not in terms of physical space, for prison is not a place that physically allows much space, but in thoughts, knowledge, and…dreams.
Each man shared with me what he dreamed to do one day and how this opportunity allowed him to achieve those dreams.
One student mentioned to me that he didn’t have a “date” to look forward to (as I learned that he will be in prison for life), but “I have hope”, he said. He went on to explain that now he has a purpose for his remaining days. He is learning to focus his energy on good things instead of causing trouble. Now he has focus, purpose, and he will be able to positively influence those who have a “date”.
Two different men talked to me about starting a nonprofit when they get out. They want to use their experiences, and their soon to be earned Trinity degree, to help troubled youth, admitting that they were once forgotten, troubled youth themselves.
Another commented that a friend on the outside contacted him, instead of a pastor or friend, for advice. His friend thought that his opinions mattered. Although he wasn’t used to people coming to him for help, he offered counsel and was thrilled to do so.
These men are gatekeepers to change. They can either ignite a positive or negative change in the people that surround them.
These men are gatekeepers of dreams. They have the ability to crush dreams or ignite them.
My journey has only just begun, but one of my hopes is to spark the dreams in those who have long ago lost the hope to dream. It is a dream bigger than making a better life for themselves, but one focused on bettering their fellow inmates, their families, and their communities.
Catherine (Draeger) Pederson
Pastor Robin Knoll
Pastor Robin Knoll (as he is known by our students) is very active within WIEA. During his first year with WIEA, he spent significant amount of time in the classroom. It became apparent that he was functioning as a Dean of Students, so for the second year of the program he dedicated 5 days a week to be in the classroom and officially transitioned into that position. One of his roles is focused on acclimating freshman to the program. Many of our students have not been in a classroom for 15+ years. Through teaching the freshman classes, Robin is also helping with their transition to formal education, so the students have a firm foundation to succeed. I have heard Robin share more than once that he thinks that everything he has done in his life to this point has prepared him for this role.
- Strategic Planning. In the beginning of April, we kicked off our strategic planning process with the students in Waupun. Please pray for us over the next few months, as we gather information, sort through the ideas, and put plans into place. In 2.5 short years, we will have graduates, and we are planning now how best to support their work.
- Financially. We thank God for all those who support this work. We are humbled by God’s gracious provision as we have been able to pay every bill over the last 2 years since this work began.
- Encouragement. Prison is not a place known for its light. Please pray for our students on their rough days, when it would be easy to focus more on the darkness than the light.
- New Enrollment. As the admission process gets underway for our third cohort, pray that inmates will be called to our program and to igniting dreams.
“You were like sheep that had lost their way, but now you have been brought back to follow the Shepard and Keeper of your souls.”
-1 Peter 2:25, GNT