Something I am really passionate about that I became connected with through Pitzer is the Prison Education Project. PEP is a program that creates educational opportunities for inmates in California. I have been volunteering with PEP for about a year now and it has been such an incredible experience. This semester I have been co-teaching a creative writing class in a women’s prison. It has been such a learning experience for me in that I have very little teaching experience, as well as being able to interact with people who would typically be outside the Claremont College experience.

While many people know that the prison system is flawed and are in support of reform, Pitzer and PEP has given me the opportunity to have hands-on experience. The program has allowed me to understand the issue in a more holistic way while also giving faces to some of the individuals truly being affected by this system. It has been a very humanizing, humbling opportunity volunteering with PEP and something I plan to continue to be involved with.

Pitzer students are involved with a variety of off campus programs and organizations. It is common for a student to volunteer regularly and something that is encouraged. We have the Community Engagement Center on campus that helps students find opportunities which makes it easy to get involved. If you would like to learn more about the many ways we engage with our community check out the website!

Posted by Anna Pleskunas ’15, Philosophy and Art

Anna Pleskunas Tour Guide

The Prison Education Project

I came to Pitzer interested in health and nutrition. I thought I might join a dance class, or even a choral group. These were the types of things I was familiar with, and knew I would enjoy. Now in my senior year, I could tell you that the dance and chorus groups are great, and a lot of my friends can tell you about nutrition in detail. For me, however, my passion now lies elsewhere.

—“Mom, Dad, don’t panic. I am now teaching at a local prison.”—

I get a kick out of hearing the responses to my volunteer work in local prisons. Concerned adults warn me of the risks of sharing my identity. Students ask me how it compares to other community service.

Teachers want to know the lessons I give. The number one question I get is “what made you interested in doing that?” The truth is, nothing made me look into prison work. I just happened to read an email one day about an orientation for the Prison Education Project, and it happened to be during my lunch period. What made me commit to the project was the emphasis the directors put on the importance of our time. We, the students, were the glue that held the project together.

We are in the prime of our education and bringing that skill set inside the prison will allow it to come out with the prisoners when they leave. Suddenly, my job felt important. My personal skill set felt irreplaceable.

My work with prisons began in Claremont, and carried onto Ecuador.

While studying abroad, I volunteered at a daycare for children with parents in prison. Now, I am writing a thesis on prison reintegration programs, and hoping to create a database of the programs offered throughout the Greater Los Angeles Area. I still hold interests in nutrition, dance, singing, and more. I mostly want to make the point that you never know what else you might be interested in. I feel incredibly fortunate to live in a community that provides endless opportunities with a swift click on an email. The best advice I can give to a student entering college is TRY EVERYTHING. Attend everything like an informational interview. Ask the deep questions and get a feel for how your will fit into the bigger picture. Taking free time to yourself is great, but when you look back at college, you won’t remember the naps you took during the day. You will remember the connections you made and the words people spoke that sparked your interest. And nothing is more satisfying than telling your friends and family you are doing something that you are truly passionate about and you took it on all by yourself.


Posted by Mary Nash ’15, Sociocultural Anthropology and Political Studies