Instructor inspired by GED students at jail

Instructor inspired by GED students at jail

URBANA — Jacqueline Archey finds the artwork done by Champaign County jail inmates inspiring.

The Parkland College adult education instructor recently taught GED classes — with a new twist — to inmates at the Champaign County Satellite Jail in Urbana.

The class was for three weeks, four days a week, at the jail. What made the coursework unique, Archey said, was that her students focused on Black History Month.

"We were asked to think about and possibly work on a project reflecting black art," she said. "The entire class put their heads together, started brainstorming and came up with some fantastic ideas."

Archey said some of her students, all male, shone in their poetry and drawings, many of them about revered figures in the Civil Rights movement.

"We began collecting magazines, newspapers, books and any other resources we could find," she said. "Students also put their creative talent to work."

The inmates could not be quoted for this story, and the photographs of their work only show them from the back.

But Archey said she was amazed by their artwork, which was displayed in the lobby of the county jail for visitors to see (and, in one case, even inquire about purchasing).

Among the African-American icons students drew: Martin Luther King, President Obama, Nelson Mandela, Oprah Winfrey, Mahalia Jackson and Malcolm X.

"In the arts field, you find a lot of the inmates have useful skills," she said.

Other skills the GED students learned were more mundane, but necessary in a tech-based economy. For some, it was the first experience with a computer and performing basic functions such as clicking, scrolling and typing.

"The feedback from the class was very fulfilling," Archey said. "We'll absolutely do it again."

Sections (2):News, Local
Topics (3):Art, Education, People

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Skepticity wrote on March 31, 2014 at 9:03 am

I am looking forward to the art outreach program to victims of crime, those that are still alive, functional, and able to participate.  I hope that the art of crime victims is also inspiring. 

Maybe that story will be on the front page, too. 

By the way, I support efforts to provide education to inmates.  Those who are wanting to improve their situations need the opportunity to learn and open new alternatives to just continuing the cycle of making poor choices that end in criminal actions and incarceration. 

It is act of promoting this element of the Parkland College jail educational program to the extent of making this a front page story that I find troubling.