Habib

My Past, Present, and Future Experiences in Education

By Anthony "Habib" Watkins | April 9, 2018

I began my primary education in 1965, in the public school system of Tuscon, AZ. I was taught the Three Rs: arithmetic, reading, and writing. In junior high school, I showed promise in my athleticism, so my teachers did not push me academically. When I entered high school, I used my muscles from the neck down, because that is what seemed to be required of me. I was a mediocre student when it came to studying any part of the curriculum in high school. In fact, all I had to do was show up for class.

At the tender age of 16, I had two devastating tragedies. The first event: my mother passed away from open heart surgery and I did not handle her death well. I had one foot in school and the other foot in the school of hard knocks (sidewalk high school). The second event: I totaled a car and messed up my right foot and left knee. I was in a lot of pain (mentally, physically, and spiritually). I began self-medicating with alcohol and licit or illicit drugs to dull my senses. I spiraled out of control and eventually ended up in prison. There were some vocational trades being offered, but most of them were obsolete. It was like being put on a shelf until the release date. I became a repeat offender for the lack of confidence and self-worth.

In 1993, I acquired a GED in prison, and yet I lounged in the CA Dept of Corrections (Rehabilitation was added in 2007). The CDC system had nothing to rehabilitate a person other than religious services and the library. I decided to take advantage of those subjects to rehabilitate myself by learning to speak Spanish, some Arabic, and man’s fallible laws.

I came to San Quentin at the end of 2011 and enrolled in the Prison University Project’s College Program. It took a little over two years to get called for an assessment for placement. I fared better in English than in math. I was placed in 99A to acclimate myself in the structure of writing. I found everyone in this program wanting to see us learn and succeed in the curriculum as well as in life. I have a fever/spark that has been ignited and there is no rest for the weary — I have learned quite a lot of things about world views and most importantly myself.

I am grateful for this opportunity because it has changed me from a cocky individual to a self-assured individual. My extended family can hear and see a different person today. I have a deep appreciation and gratitude for everyone who sees the need to educate and reform what seem to be society’s “throwaways.”

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Notes like this mean so much. We're so glad to be able to provide care packages to people in prisons all throughout California as we all continue to grapple with the trauma of the pandemic. Enjoy and take care, @A_VoiceInside.

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