PPLM Pen Pal Letters Written by Students of Barry University BMS Program

Dear future leader,

I cannot put myself in your shoes right now because I have not been where you have been or

seen the things you have seen. Our life experiences may be the complete opposite, or just alike.

Who knows. Either way, I am here to offer some words of encouragement because that’s

something we all can use at some point in our lives.

Someone once said “a smooth sea never made a skillful sailor”. This means that life has its ups

and downs. We don’t always know what life will throw our way and at times life can seem so

unfair, but we have to keep hope and keep the faith in ourselves because our challenges only

make us better. Some may see this as the worst time of their life, but I want you to see this as

time to grow, change and work to becoming the person you want to be. Remember, any

feelings of defeat are only temporary; you can be great. This is only a bump in the road. It does

not have to be your life. Don’t give up on yourself; you are worth it. Find a goal and use this

time to work towards making that goal happen. You can literally do anything you put your mind

to. I know you can do it because I am doing it. We all have the same capabilities to succeed,

despite our circumstances. We just have to overcome those circumstances to make it happen.

Of course, that is easier said than done, but I believe that you can be great. Believe in yourself.

Stay strong.

Sending you light and hope.

Dear Friend,

I am writing to you to send some encouragement your way. Life is sometimes crazy and at

times we end up in places we never even expected to get to. However, the beautiful thing

about it is you have the power to change where you are in life and the person you want to be.

No one in the world is perfect. Everyone has their flaws because that’s what makes us human.

Maybe you feel like it’s all your fault or maybe you feel like it’s all someone else’s fault. I

understand; it may not seem fair. It’s okay to feel upset, hurt, disappointed or even angry, BUT

you have to use those feelings to motivate you to change your life. Don’t get bitter, get better. I

know it can be hard to be where you are right now. I have family members and friends in your

very shoes as we speak. The thing I admire most about them is that they have hope. You have

to have hope. Don’t give up on yourself. You can be anything you want to be. I mean anything –

doctor, lawyer, entrepreneur, whatever you set your mind to do. Imagine the life you want

once you have finished your time there. Work towards making that life a reality. Go back to

school if that’s what you need to do. Whatever it is you want to do, just do not give up. There

are too many people who gave up far too soon and regret it. Keep your head up. You can be

great starting today.

Sending you light and hope.

To A Future Leader,

From a person who was once in your situation, please let me inform you on

how essential you are to a better future. You are so full of capabilities and you have

such a beautiful story to tell for future generations. Every experience in your life is a

lesson learned, whether it be a toxic person you removed yourself from or from

making a mistake. From my own experiences, I grew up in a bad neighborhood with

bad influences, I had problems with “fake” friends, I’ve been in handcuffs from being

in so many fights, and I’ve made so many mistakes in my life that I can’t even keep

record of but these struggles have all taught me valuable experiences that have

made me the person I am today. I’m currently in graduate school and applying to be

a medical student so I can be a doctor in the military. Just like you, I had big dreams

and just like you, I had so much going against me but nothing is impossible. You

literally can do anything you want, who says you aren’t capable? If you truly want

something, fight for it and fight hard. Success isn’t given but earned.

I believe in you and I am not the only one. You are not alone, you have

support from so many people but no one can take the first step but you. You have to

make a plan to succeed and strive because I know you will get there. At the end of

the day, what you do is what defines you. You will conquer. You will succeed and

make such a beautiful difference so I encourage you. Be the change you wish to see

in this world.


A person who believes in you

Dear Mentee,

You might get a lot of letters telling you how special you are and how much of

the world you can conquer but no one can make the first step to success but you.

Everyone has such amazing contributions they can make to better the world and

you definitely have every bit of skills to do so. YOU have what it takes but only YOU

can take that initiative and push to be the best person you can be. We all have our

stories, we all have different obstacles, and we all have our own adversities but our

struggles don’t define us.

If you are unhappy with your current situation, then change it. If you can’t

change it then accept it. However, if you are going to accept it, you should ask if this

is what you want to do for the rest of your life. Are you the best version of yourself

and are you making the world a better place for a brother, a sister, or for your future


We all have made mistakes in our lives but who you are in the end of this

journey is what defines you. It won’t be easy but it will be worth it. If you’re going to

do something, make sure you’re going to do it to the best of your abilities. Get up, get

your stuff together, and prove to everyone who has doubted you wrong. Be an

influence, be a leader, be a role model and change lives because YOU know YOU can.


Someone who was once in your situation

Dear Pen Pal,

I would not be telling you the truth if I said I have never felt alone or helpless or hopeless in a situation. What I can say is that you are extraordinary and you are destined to be someone great. Something amazing was placed in you and you can lead a purposeful life. Despite what is going on around you, what matters is what is going on within you. You have the power to change your life and your circumstances, no matter what others may say. Have faith in yourself, not other people or things. Find your inner peace and work to become the person you were destined to become. Find what it is you were destined to do and go for it. Nothing and no one else can stop you, except for you! You have the power to make it happen. I know some situations may not be your doing and sometimes we find ourselves in places we never thought we would be, BUT use this as an opportunity to become a better person and walk in your life’s purpose. You areloved and you can do whatever you put your mind to. You can change yourself, your situation and your life will have an impact on the world. Make it a positive one!


Your Pen Pal

Dear Pen Pal,

The worse decision you can make is know that you have a purpose and do nothing with it. What is it that

you want to be known for? What do you want to do? And more importantly, what are you going to do

about it? Our mistakes don’t make us who we are. It is how we respond to our mistakes that help us

build character and become the person we are destined to become. We can’t erase our mistakes, but

we can use them to be better. So, my Pen Pal, my encouraging words to you today are not to despair,

get bogged down or angry for any decision you may have made or any mistake you feel like you can’t

take back. Instead, let it grow you. Let this experience make you better. Dig deep into yourself and see

your full potential, and then go after what you see! I once read something that said, “There is no such

thing as impossible; the word itself says I’m possible”. That means, you can do ANYTHING. You are

worth your own investment. Make that investment in yourself now. Better yourself, read, research,

pursuit the good things in life that matter for your future. Do the things you need to do to uplift yourself

because you are worthy and you can do it!


Your Pen Pal

Dear Pen Pal,

I know you may be confused about how you got here or what to do next. I don’t know what tomorrow

holds, but I do know who holds tomorrow. You can endure this process. You will get through this stage. I

don’t know if you believe in destiny, but I do. I believe every moment of your life was planned before a

single day passed. And I believe that this can only help you become stronger. There is a plan for your life.

There is a purpose for your life. Brush the dust off and move forward in your life. Do what you have to

do in this stage and prepare to make yourself better. I am telling you that you can endure this process.

Some days may seem hard, I know, but I also know that you can handle it well. Don’t give in to the

surroundings or your circumstances. Don’t allow those who know you the least, shape you the most.

You hold the key to your own future. Pick yourself up. Be encouraged. Life is not over for you. It is only

beginning! There is so much greater in store for you. This part will be over before you know it. What

matters is what you decide to do after this experience. Make your life count. You were placed on this

Earth for a purpose. Find your purpose and work towards it. Be strong and know that you are loved and

that there is someone praying for your success.


Your Pen Pal

Dear Pen Pal,

Hope means that we look forward in confidence of something good to come. I have hope in you and I

hope that you have hope in yourself and your situation. Believe it or not, your hope has influence in your

life. Your hope in yourself can be the difference between just making it through or coming out

triumphant. Cultivate your belief and your hope that your situation is not the end. You have to keep

telling yourself you can do this. You have to keep telling yourself to keep going, even if you feel there is

no one else telling you the same. I am just here to tell you that you don’t have to worry or be afraid. You

will make it past this. Not only can you make it past this, but you can still accomplish your dreams.

Nothing is impossible for you. You can still be a good person, you can still be a leader, you can still be a

positive influence on others. Become someone your family and friends would be proud of. Begin to

create your legacy now. Your life is so valuable. I hope that you realize all that you are fully capable of.

You are not hopeless and you are not helpless. Your experiences do not make you any less of a person

or any less worthy of a happy, successful and positive life. Make your plan and work towards what you

want to do after this part of your journey. And I hope that in it all you remember good things are going

to come to you. Just have hope.


Your Pen Pal

Dear Pen Pal,

I know this is probably a tough time and are probably so close to giving up, but I have a few things I want

to tell you: don’t lose faith and don’t become discouraged. You may be discontented but use this as a

time to plan for your future. What do you want to do with your life? You have all the opportunity in the

world. We are so blessed to live in a country where we are afforded opportunities for advancement.

Make the most of this time. Plan for your future. Quitting is not an option now. Use this as your moment

to dream again. Make a vision for how you see your life in the future and make the necessary steps to

make that happen. I know this may seem easier said than done, but start with the small steps. Research

what you want to do with your life and focus on moving yourself in that positive direction. There are so

many options for you. You can be a doctor, an engineer, a small business owner, a motivational speaker,

a talent manager, an accountant, whatever it is that you want to do. Focus on your dream and make it

your reality. Read up on your future path. Take a class. Sign up for a program. Find a mentor who is

doing what it is you want to do with your life. Take whatever steps are necessary to progress yourself

forward. You can’t dwell on what’s happened or whose fault it was; all you can do now is make this time

count for you and not against you. You are young. Anything is possible for you. Dream, believe and

become what it is you envision for yourself to have a better life.


Your Pen Pal

To my pen pal,

Hey there! It is such a pleasure to have the opportunity to communicate with you. I have faced much

adversity in my personal life and I hope to be a positive light in your life as well as a beacon of hope. I

am here to reassure you that this is all temporary. There is absolutely NOTHING that you are enduring at

the moment that cannot be improved upon. Wherever you feel the slightest ounce of discouragement,

please remember that there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Even if the light may be dim for the

time being. Always hold your head high with confidence and understand that one poor decision in life

does not define you as a person. Keep the faith!

“God is out refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” – Psalm 46:1


Your Pen Pal

Dear young person,

I hope life is treating you better. Life is tough, something I have grown to realize over the

years. No matter how hard you get back up, it will try to knock you down again. That’s why you

must bounce back with a much greater force and keep the momentum going. Never stopping to

look back. I couldn’t be in Grad School studying Biomedical Sciences if it wasn’t for the help of

my mentors, supporting and encouraging me when I was weak. I wasn’t the strongest student in

high school. I made average to below average grades mainly due to lack of focus and motivation.

I eventually graduated and went onto college. My grades slowly improved which sparked a fire

in my mind and I was determined to succeed.

I’ve learned that many things in life require practice and persistence. If you want to excel

at Basketball, Singing, Dancing or any other passion you must put in the time. You will struggle

and fail at first but eventually will become great at your craft. You must push through the initial

struggle phase. It’s the hardest but also the part where you grow and develop. After this phase, it

will get easier and easier and you can perform with second nature. Therefore, it’s important to

start now at a young age developing good habits so they can become a lifestyle for you.

Invest in yourself and this will add value to your life. It can be as small as replacing soda

with water every day or exercising instead of watching a movie. These small adjustments can

have positive impacts on your quality of life. Delve deep inside yourself to find what brings you

joy. Use this as a guide to finding your passion in life. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it just needs to

be raw and personal to you. This is where you can find your purpose. You are born with unique

talents. Trial and error helps some discover these gifts while some know right from the start

where their specialty lies. Don’t be afraid to take risks to find your purpose. In the end, it will be

well worth it. Peace of mind will find you. You’ll be fulfilled and satisfied.

Always believe in yourself and develop independence. Don’t rely on the approval of

others but make sure you love yourself so that you won’t depend on a person to love you and

build you up. With patience and time, you will be on your way to reaching your fullest potential.


A caring Human

SELI 2015 Summer Fellow Final Prezi Presentation at Southern Education Foundation by Darius Johnson

DJ_Eradicating the School-to-Prison Pipeline (E-SToPP):
A Pedagogical Approach

Darius Johnson, M.A.


PPLM Pen Pal Letter Written by Jamare Hall


I was once you

I was once you, I was once sad feeling down and blue

I was once in your shoes, I once thought trouble was cool

I was once a product of my environment, not once did I listen, time after time again

I was once in the back of a police car. Yea I once did it, not thinking about the crimes I


I once hurt a family, including mine too, but no one’s perfect even saints make mistakes too

I once hated myself, I once blamed myself, and I continued to play the victim until I forgave


I once ran out of luck, I once remember feeling stuck, I once never realized until time was up

I once been through the struggle and more than once I watched the system take my brothers

I once changed my life and just that ONCE it made a difference, I made better decisions for me. I

was once you, now I have a college degree.


The School-to-Prison Pipeline in Liberty City by Corey Miles

Liberty City Report- FINAL, Corey Miles page 1Liberty City Report- FINAL, Corey Miles page 2Liberty City Report- FINAL, Corey Miles page 3Liberty City Report- FINAL, Corey Miles page 4

Critical Reflection of Summer SELI Fellowship with E-SToPP by Corey Miles

Corey Milescorey


Final Critical Reflection

I grew up in the South to a single teenage mother who raised four kids on a minimum

wage job. I am the first/only person in my family to go to college, let alone receive a college

degree. When I engage in work for education equity for disadvantaged students, it is more than

a professional endeavor, but about serving people I identify with. It also allows me to think

through who I am, but more importantly who I can and should be. I spent my summer working

with Eradication the School-to- Prison Pipeline Foundation, Inc in Miami, Florida. My internship

consisted of different interconnected parts that were all aimed at advancing education for

distressed, underprivileged, and disenfranchised youth and their families and communities (as

stated in my work plan).

Throughout the summer I participated weekly in the Positive Peer Leadership Mentoring

program. This allowed me to go into Turner Guilford Correctional Facility & Miami Dade

Juvenile Detention Center. I had the opportunity to mentor and learn from students about their

conceptualization of education equity. This is monumental because typically students who

reside in juvenile justice facilities are not brought to the table to engage in conversations

centered on education equity. My summer also consisted of meeting an array of community

leaders who work on the ground to give back to their communities. Gayle Flowers, a local

pastor in Liberty City, stood out the most because of her organic passion to serve.

I also had the privilege to develop a curriculum map for E-SToPP’s freedom school. This

is personally important to me because I serve as an exemplar that the educational system can

change the lives of poor students of color for the better. However, that may be true to a degree

because I am financially stable because of the educational system, but that is only part of the

story. Through my educational experience I continuously feel something is missing because I

don’t see myself in the curriculum. The educational system doesn’t for the most part teach, but

indoctrinates students into a particular culture (middle-class white American). Students are

essentially assessed by the manner in which they appropriate that culture. Developing the

curriculum map allowed me to research and access what it is that students of color need that

they are not already receiving. For me liberation should be the goal of the curriculum and it was

great constructing an educational experience centered on giving students the tools to be their

own hero.

Over the summer I also had the opportunity to study and develop an infographic on

school discipline in Liberty City, attend a Bidder’s Conference to get a feel of grant writing, and

an array of other personal and professional enriching activities. The biggest lesson that I

learned is, it’s simple but very true, you much have passion if you are going to do education

equity work successfully. This road is long and hard as hell at times. Money and other frivolous

things can’t sustain this type of work. An example is going to the detention centers. There are

so many loops and things that can occur that prevents you from seeing the students and/or the

number of students you can see at a time. When you do see them they may not be interested

in participating or value your presence. But, passion is going to make you jump through those

hoops again the next day and continue the process of developing rapport with these students.

Since you don’t see immediate change it becomes difficult to negotiate if you are really making

a change. But, passion will keep you there for the long haul. These students have been

socialized not to value their own greatest and it becomes our duty to believe in them so much

they can’t help but to want better for their self.

The biggest challenge I see for E-SToPP is that we want to do what not a lot of others

will. We want to take a segment of the population that most of the country ignores and doesn’t

even know about and give them a fighting chance at a good life. When it comes to fund

allocation it is easier to make a case to invest in these kids who are trying, but they are in

underfunded schools. It becomes harder convince stake holders to invest resources, love, and

passion into students with felonies or other comparable stigmas. Structurally it becomes

complicated when it comes to securing funding, obtaining insurance, and other logistics that go

into sustaining a non-profit that serves youth that reside in juvenile justice facilities.

I feel my reflection is more personal and affective than it is professionally goal-oriented.

Part of that is intentional, but the other part is that what I took the most from my experience is

inspiration. Some scholars have argued that the most under-utilized human and natural

resource is inspiration. As I go back to finish working my doctoral work sitting on the

educational ivory tower I will go with a newfound respect for individuals who are on the

ground. When become a faculty member at a university I don’t want to limit my fight for

education equity to teaching it in class and publishing in journals. I am currently trying to

negotiate with myself how to move forward with my work in educational equity. It is a

conversation about what I can give. I feel similar to words spoken by the prominent rapper

Wale, “I am just a man, May not change the world. But let me inspire someone who can”.

JDC Newsletter Volume 3 Issue 8: Life & Death

Life & Death



JDC Newsletter Volume 3 Issue 7: Collaborative Poetry Book

Collaborative Poetry Book



JDC Newsletter Volume 3 Issue 6: Life & Death

Life & Death



JDC Newsletter Volume 3 Issue 5: School-to-Prison Pipeline

School-to-Prison Pipeline



JDC Newsletter Volume 3 Issue 4: Transforming Our Communities

Transforming Our Communities