(Monica, a former FIWP sholarship recipient, shares her story)
I was raised by a single mother in a family that lived by its own set of rules rather than those of society. My mother introduced me to stealing at the age of 10. By then I was also experimenting with cigarettes and alcoholand soon progressed to drugs. I rebelled against authority and was agressively disruptive at school. The first of my many encounters with the legal system began at the age of 10 or 11.
Over the coming years, I was in and out of detention centers and treatment programs. Eventually I left the school and detention centers behind and went on the run. At the age of 17, I was ordered by the court to get my GED, which I did. However, my destructive lifestyle continued and, by the age of 25, I was heading to prison on a 35-year sentence for a drug charge.
Prison saved ny life! I was fortunate to participate in the STAR treatment program, which taught me a radically new way of thinking and living. I was strongly encouraged to apply for a FIWP scholarship. I was fortunate to be awarded a scholarship and, despite being VERY nervous, I began my first college course.
With the help of an inmate tutor, I completed my Psychology 101 class with an A! It was that class which gave me the confidence to go back to school when I was released from prison in 2005. I’ve been going to school at DMACC [Des Moines Area Community College] part-time ever since, working toward an associate degree in Human Services. I’ve made the Dean’s, Provost’s and President’s lists multiple times.
I live a healthy life today. I’ve been clean and sober for 6 years. I have a job, I go to school, and I volunteer at the prison facilitating a support groupt for inmates in the STAR program. Prison truly changed my life forever.