Courageous Voices: Challenging Stereotypes and Upholding Human Dignity

Students in Manhattan College‘s “Engaging, Educating, Empowering Means Change” course meet for class at Rikers Island jail complex, with an equal number of prisoners enrolled in the course as their classmates. The primary goal is to correct the common perception that people who live in poverty, especially those with a criminal record, are unworthy of the social privileges that the college’s students enjoy. The course gives an opportunity for the students from Manhattan College and Rikers Island to build relationships with one another, challenging common assumptions and stereotypes about those who live on the margins of society.  Upon their release, the formerly incarcerated students have an opportunity to attend the college. Administrators have noted that when the two groups of students reunite on campus, they tend to look out for one another – and both become advocates for reform of the prison system.

To learn more about the course, read the article “The Prison Class” in America.

Over the next few weeks, we will release short stories about the courageous voices of our member colleges and universities.  Stay tuned to hear about how students, faculty, and staff are responding to Pope Francis’s call to social justice and a culture of encounter.  If you are still curious about how Catholic colleges and universities are promoting social justice on campus, read the original blog post on the Courageous Voices series, or check out ACCU’s inventory of promising practices, which includes many examples of our members engaging with Catholic Social Teaching.