An inside student's graduation speech
This speech was delivered by an inside student at the first Inside-Out graduation ceremony at the Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener in November 2011.
Pre-conceived notions. We are all guilty of harbouring them. Notions of what we think things are supposed to be. Things like prison, and education. Of what and who the student is, and what and who the convict is.
These notions have many aliases. They can be called assumptions. Generalizations. Stereotypes. Archetypes. Call them what we may they are dangerous, for they draw the deep lines, framing the societal and cultural confines which keep us all apart. Which keep us all oppressed.
Today, those lines are blurred. No, today they don't exist. Today there is no distinction between student and convict and education and prison… because today, right here, we are all students. Learning. Evolving. Erasing. Celebrating.
The lesson? Invaluable.
Tearing free from our pre-conceived notions. Breaking down the walls. Building bridges, building communities. Linking education to rehabilitation. And growing internally all the while.
This is the lesson I have taken from the Inside-Out program. And what a great program it is.
When I first applied, I suspected something very special was beginning here – but I had no idea. And how could anyone understand what a profound experience this is?
This class has a lot to offer. The voices of the class have a lot to offer.
Each person has given me inspiration. Given me the confidence to do things like this. And hope. The whole class – from its structure, to every person in it – has given me hope. From learning the content, to listening to all your stories and ideas, fear and dreams, I have realized that I am not as alone as I thought I was. That you are all strong and brave people, and that this world isn't an easy place for any of us.
I have realized something else too. And it's that we have got to hold onto programs like this. We have got to embrace them, as we most certainly have here. For this class has let us be strong and brave together. It has become a text from which we can reference as we go along our individual endeavours. A tool which we can use together to mend what is broken. And a beginning from which something awesome is blossoming.
And standing here today, I understand liberation too. Because today, I am free. Not in body, but in mind and heart. And that's because of this class, because of all of you. Thank you.