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Alumni Highlight

Check out our latest Alumni Highlight with former FEPPS Student, Adri

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Alumni Highlight

We were able to speak with Adri, a FEPPS Alumna and volunteer, about her story and the impact pursuing a college education has had on her life. She is seen in the photo below, followed by Executive Director Tanya Erzen, former Program Manager Mary Weir, FEPPS Alumna and Gala Committee member Autumn, and FEPPS board member Shajuanda Tate at last year’s Volunteer Appreciation Party at Gasworks Park in Seattle, WA.
We believe you will enjoy her story!

“I caught my first case at the age of 18 and was in and out, in and out, in and out. When I eventually went to prison the only difference, the only thing that changed is that I was introduced to FEPPS.” Adri is now a student at the University of Washington in the Sociology Department. However, her road to pursuing a college education began while incarcerated at the Washington Corrections Center for Women in Gig Harbor. While serving her sentence at WCCW, Adri says she was not working or involved in any programs, until she learned about FEPPS. “I always liked school,” said Adri, “The Freedom Education Project was a reintroduction to education for me which was great. It gave me something to look forward to each week, like I was actually doing something with my life at a time when my life was put on pause.”

While education is a now priority to Adri, she claims circumstances can make it difficult for that to always be the case. “When you get out, you have to focus on survival and taking care of yourself. The main focus is often to get a job because well, you need money coming in,” Adri described her own reentry process as “tough” and claimed education made it easier. “I didn’t go back to school until I had been out for a little under a year. If I had started school right after I got out, I think that my whole reentry process would have been a lot better because I did struggle and was on the verge of probably being sent back to prison. Not because I wasn’t working, I had a job. It was because I wasn’t doing anything proactive. I wasn’t doing anything to better my life, I wasn’t moving forward.” She went on to say, “The hugest part for me of not being sent back was education and that is all thanks to FEPPS. Without taking those classes while incarcerated, I wouldn’t have had the reintroduction to education that I needed to be successful in my pursuit of education outside of the prison.”

About a year after her release from WCCW, Adri enrolled at Bellevue College where she completed her Associates of Arts Degree before transferring to UW. She is now, as mentioned, a Sociology major and is considering a possible transfer to Columbia University in New York. She is interested in pursuing a Political Science Degree from the east coast university, with a minor in sociology. When asked about her goals post-graduation, Adri responded “After I get my Bachelors, I am probably going to keep going. I have toyed with the thought of teaching, of being a mini Tanya. It would be cool to do what she does,” referring to Tanya Erzen, FEPPS Executive Director, who taught some of the courses Adri took as a FEPPS student and is considered by Adri to be both a mentor and a friend.

When we asked Adri to expand on why education is important to her, her response shed light on our mission statement, informing why we do what we do. Adri spoke about being a felon for “pretty much” her entire adult life. She spoke about her desire to not simply work another job, but to have a career and how education is opening that door for her. “If you are after some kind of menial job, there is always a box you have to check. You are going to be discriminated against and chances are, you’re not going to get the job,” Adri said speaking of the struggles she has faced while trying to get a job after being released. “This (education) is opening me up to different career opportunities. Not a job, but a career.” Education is what Adri claimed as the pathway, higher education is the platform propelling her into the life that she wants for herself. We are thrilled for Adri’s success thus far and cannot wait to see what she goes on to do. She is a phenomenal example of what empowering women through education can do.

“I am progressing. I am not staying stagnant. I am moving forward to accomplish a goal that matters to me.” – Adri

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