“I always had a thing for medicine,” Todd, a recent GED graduate at King County Correctional Facility, told me when I asked him why he had decided on nursing as his future career. He detailed to me an incident where one of his friends had a seizure, and “just out of instinct, I knew what to do. It felt like my calling. The paramedics came and said, ‘Do you have any medical training?’ because they said I did everything right.”

Unlike many of our students at the jail, Todd didn’t have a negative schooling experience growing up. His father was in the military so he was able to experience a variety of different schools and teachers. “My problem was I was a class clown; I didn’t realize I could still be that and still take my studies seriously.”

When Todd first arrived at KCCF, he was despondent. He was too stressed out to even have goals. But eventually he kited (sent a request) to join the GED class, and he said it’s the best thing he did. “My experience at KCCF has been amazing,” he said, his eyes welling with tears. “The teachers don’t look at you like an inmate, they look at you as a person. A lot of people don’t do that once you’re in jail, but they do. They really push you to better yourself.”

He is also thankful for the time his tutor, Stephanie Anderson, took out of her busy schedule as a University of Washington student (she participated in the Inner Pipeline course offered by the current tutor coordinator at KCCF) to come down and work with him each week, and that she saw him as a student and a person, not as someone who committed a crime: “She put the time in to make the difference. To know that these tutors are sacrificing their time, time that they could be spending with friends, to come in here - and this is not a nice place - that means a lot, it shows a lot about her character.”

Todd’s experience at KCCF was his first experience of incarceration, and he is determined that it will be his last. He’s got a plan to go to Seattle Central College this summer, as soon as he gets out, to talk to the Student Development Specialist and start his pre-requisites in the fall. Since receiving his GED, he is the first person in his family to graduate high school. “I am so excited, I’m so stoked. I didn’t know how big of a stepping stone it was [getting my GED]. Now I know that I can go to college and get an actual career where I can feel respected and accomplished.”

He’s got a message, too, to everyone on the outside. “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” he says, “A lot of people will judge you for going to jail. But Kit & Cat (his teachers at KCCF) can tell you that people can be in here and still be good people.”

Written by Liz Wurster