During my first semester of college, I was fortunate enough to take American Politics with Professor Chris Bonneau. Throughout this course, I was very engaged in the material and often attended office hours or scheduled times to meet with him to discuss parts of the content which I did not understand. The following semester, I approached Professor Bonneau with a few questions for a debate I was participating in and with a few questions on academic advice. In this process, I was able to form a mentor-mentee relationship with Professor Bonneau, putting me in the position to take my Capstone course during my fall semester sophomore year, which he taught.
Throughout my time in the Inside Out course, I maintained the same level of engagement that I put forth in my American Politics class. I continued to ask Professor Bonneau for advice and I continued to attend office hours. In the following semester, when it was time to enroll for Fall 2020 classes, I asked Professor Bonneau if he had any recommendations and he offered the teaching assistant position to me.
As we planned the course over the summer, we anticipated that we would not be able to actually enter the institution—the best part of the course. As such, we knew we had to develop an alternative way to make the class experiential, so I proposed that we bring in guest speakers to address various parts of the criminal justice system. With this idea as a framework, we contacted several community figures such as previous prosecutors, nonprofit organizers, the Pitt Police Chief, and the formerly incarcerated to ask them to speak to the class.
So far, we have heard from the Pitt Police Chief and a former prosecutor. These discussions have been enlightening and engaging, allowing the students to see the various facets and considerations of the criminal justice system. I feel that this unique curriculum has been a success so far and has allowed us to maintain students’ attention despite classes taking place on Zoom. This opportunity has made me more organized as a student and has enhanced my communication skills with community members. It has also allowed me to determine a balance between being a peer and a point of contact for these students, pushing me to be both approachable and knowledgeable.