Sophia Laurenzi, '17
At the end of the graduation lunch for the Hope House Scholars Program, a woman from Hope House thanked the teaching team for treating her without judgment and with the sense that she is capable.
Through tutoring at Hope House, a residential recovery program that women are often court-mandated to, and volunteering with The Last Mile, a start-up that teaches coding and professional skills to incarcerated individuals, I have worked with dozens of people who society sees as incapable--incapable of learning, of changing, of redemption. It has been the deepest joy of my time at Stanford to witness those involved with the criminal justice system shift from seeing themselves as incapable to capable.
The smallest moments can instill this confidence; learning a dance step in the Cardinal Service Dance in Prison course, writing a topic sentence, sharing a thought in a group discussion. These experiences have taught me that it is not ethical or even possible to try to "change" individuals in the criminal justice system. It is possible, and beautiful, to build relationships, environments, and skills that support others to tap into the universal human potential for change within themselves.