As my semester abroad careens to an end (about a month left), I can’t help but think about all of the communities at Tufts I temporarily left behind and how excited I am to return. In particular, the Petey Greene Program has been the most difficult to be away from. Every Friday, my friends and I would pile into the Tisch College van and drive to Billerica, Massachusetts to tutor incarcerated men seeking to obtain their high school education equivalency. While we still haven’t managed to get an auxiliary cord to DJ our weekly commute, the van is far from silent as we often discuss our presence in the Middlesex House of Corrections, how we are able to come and go as we please unlike the students we work with, or how un-accommodative the Hi-set test is and how frustrating it can be to teach it.
Ralph Waldo “Petey” Greene, Jr. was a popular black radio show host in Washington D.C., who used his platform to center discussions about poverty, racism, the drug epidemic, and the D.C. riots. As a man who was formerly incarcerated, his success is noteworthy. I founded a Tufts program from this organization back in Fall 2015 as my Tisch Scholar project, and it has become my most involved activity at Tufts. We started as a group of four, cautiously backing out of the Latin Way parking lot in zipcars, to a group of over thirty tutoring at two different facilities in the Boston area. In my time with the program, I have seen men obtain their GEDs and become tutors for their cellmates aspiring for the same outcome. I have seen an extremely caring and patient prison classroom teacher try to give his students the best resources and opportunities as possible, affirming their dignity in a space that does the opposite. I have thought pensively about my own educational background and the identity that I carry as a Tufts student each time I enter and leave that space, and I have thought of how the people incarcerated in these facilities are often from the same communities as the correctional officers that occupy spaces of power. Tufts Petey Greene is filled with passionate, thoughtful, fun, and conscientious individuals, and I still cannot believe the program has grown so much in its short time here.
When I joined the Tisch Scholar program my first year, I knew I was joining a community of peers who were also mindful about the ways in which we can support the host neighborhoods of Tufts through taking on year long projects during the school year. The Scholar cohort has become one of my many homes at Tufts and has been an amazing way for me to be challenged, grow, and make friends with people of different class years, majors, and walks of life. Plus, the delicious food catered by local restaurants at our weekly Wednesday meetings has kept me well fed over the years. Now, I eagerly wait to get back—and not just for the food.