USM Students Visit St. Francis College
On March 14, a group of students from the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) traveled to St. Francis College (SFC) to learn more about the SFC Justice Initiative’s Post-Prison Program. Their visit was part of a larger “alternative spring break” trip to New York City, one where USM students engage in volunteer, service-learning or educational opportunities.
“Alternative spring break trips can occur during the fall, spring or summer semesters,” explained Nneka Ayozie, Assistant Director of Engagement at USM, who oversees volunteer opportunities at the university and accompanied the USM students to New York City. “The objective is to get students excited about social justice and empower them to become agents of positive change." The trips also reinforce concepts such as cultural immersion and civic identity.
“The USM visit to SFC has been in the works since 2020 but was delayed until now because of COVID-19,” noted Emily Horowitz, professor and chair of sociology and criminal justice at SFC and co-director of the College’s Justice Initiative. Horowitz — along with Eric Platt, associate professor and chair of economics, history and political science and co-director of the Justice Initiative — welcomed the USM students to SFC. Sara Rzeszutek, director of the Honors Program, first connected Horowitz and Platt with USM after she visited colleagues there and discussed building a partnership between the two schools.
As they enjoyed a pizza lunch in the cafeteria, the USM students listened to presentations by Helen “Skip” Skipper, Jeanette Toledo, Larry Williams, Guillermo Arias Moncion and Sha-heed Rahman, all of whom are justice-impacted individuals currently pursuing degrees at SFC as part of the Justice Initiative's Post-Prison Program. The speakers took turns discussing their individual life journey, the importance of education in the re-entry process and the validity of second chances.
“Next year,” said Platt, “we hope to bring our students to USM.”