A.C.E. (Another Chance at Education) Think Tank

Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem, OR / University of Oregon

Coordinator: Shaul Cohen

The ACE Think Tank has been working to support a very vigorous Inside-Out program at Oregon State Penitentiary (OSP) and other area correctional facilities. Next year, there will be nine Inside-Out courses offered through the University of Oregon, Oregon State University, and Chemeketa Community College. ACE members serve as Teaching Assistants in some courses, provide feedback on curriculum development, and host additional dialogue, tour, and Q&A sessions for outside students. The ACE group also consults with area agencies and academics in the creation of programs to combat child abuse and family violence. ACE is helping to develop a new program, enlisting Inside-Out alumni at the U. of O. and a group at OSP to provide mentoring and inspiration to area youth. Schools throughout Oregon will bring their students to OSP for a workshop, followed by a parallel experience on the U. of O. campus.

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This poem was written by four inside and outside participants in the June instructor training in Oregon as part of an activity created during the training. These poems were composed in small groups by circulating the papers around the circle of each group, while each individual added a line to the previous line. The interesting part of this exercise was that no one in the small group could see the whole poem until it was finished; everyone wrote based solely on the line they could see (the rest was folded underneath). This is one example of dozens written that day.

I’ll never forget the day when
It came to me
There would be daily trips to oncology
Radiation and chemotherapy
I have cancer, but cancer can’t have me

I am caught in the storm, but I dance in the room
I see in colors in a land of black and white
I am in this body but it is not me
I swim in the ocean, but do not sink

My favorite color
Can you believe it is pink?
Fall upon the midnight hour
Remove from them the undue power

Show your blooms, as does the flower
Hope guides you, carries you through
Shows you what you need to do
Believe