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Poems from Prison

There’s a good article in a 2016 issue of The Atlantic titled, “How Kids Learn Resilience,” by Paul Tough (the irony!). Mr. Tough discusses the effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) on adolescent development. Not surprisingly, children who experience numerous ACEs tend to perform poorly in school, suffer from a myriad of health issues, and are more likely to be incarcerated later in life.


The entire article takes about 25 minutes to read, but here’s the main point. Researchers have identified four key beliefs that, when embraced by students, seem to contribute most significantly to their tendency to persevere in the classroom:


1. I belong in this academic community.

2. My ability and competence grow with my effort.

3. I can succeed at this.

4. This work has value for me.


Burruss Correctional Training Center recently held a graduation ceremony for horticulture, welding, and GED students; Grace and I were able to attend. The GED salutatorian, Teyric (who is also a horticulture student), is 17 years old. He is a skinny, shy, intelligent, African American kid who minds his own business and does his assignments dutifully. For the 100 Things I Know assignment, he wrote “100. I know I have a good horticulture teacher who cares about me.” Safe to say he got an A on that assignment.


Teyric’s mother was able to attend the graduation ceremony. This is what Teyric said during his speech, in front of his peers, his teachers, and his mother.


Growing up, the only reason teachers knew my name was because they had to mark me absent. Change doesn’t happen in a day, a month, or even a year, but you have to start somewhere. We have the ability to be lawyers, entrepreneurs, activists, business owners. Failure is acceptable, but quitting is never an option. To all my teachers, thank you for seeing the good in us that we sometimes don’t see in ourselves.”


We don’t know Teyric’s full story, but I can guarantee you he’s experienced his share of Adverse Childhood Experiences; 40-60% of incarcerated people in America have experienced a traumatic brain injury in their lives. For the general population, that figure is only 9%. The scars I see on the people we minister to are not always from criminal behavior; they’re oftentimes from childhood. We can’t change what happened in the past, but we can give someone who is incarcerated, who is living out their lowest moment, a chance to have a better future which will, in turn, lead to better futures for all of us.


It starts with purposeful programs led by dynamic instructors, people like Fred Eason, Omar Howard, Grace Hall, John Richardson. People who bring a Christ-focused curriculum to the classroom each week and show students that they belong, that they can work hard, that they will succeed, that their work has value.


These instructors need your support – your prayers and your financial gifts. Chaplain John mentors about 180 youth inside and outside prison each week, and Chaplain Omar serves the entire population at the Atlanta Transitional Center. Grace has sent out literacy packages to over 1,000 Little Readers children this year. Fred meets with juvenile and adult art students every Thursday, patiently teaching them how to paint and overcome the mental, physical, and emotional pains of incarceration. I teach young men the wonders of nature, the beauty given to us by the Great Creator.


With your help, we’re making a difference; you can hear it in Teyric’s words and others. One horticulture student recently wrote this poem:


“Raised by my mother my father was a jail bird

My gut told me I wasn’t going to fall behind these walls I feel for it

Put my fear in the Lord He will correct your ways

Another day I wake up make my bed all I’m doing is flipping another page

We’re 17 they got us like gorillas and lions locked inside one big cage

Fighting for position or who’s better we eating all the same trays

Wake up put the same clothes on even on the same time frame

We’re just like plants some grow some don’t

It's up to you if you let the devil take you I know I won’t.”


It has been said that people don’t care about how much you know until they know how much you care. And friends, our teachers, staff, and volunteers at HeartBound Ministries, we care. And we thank YOU for caring too.


Please consider supporting our programs by making a donation at www.givebutter.com/HeartBound. Nearly 70% of our donations come from individuals just like you. Ministry thrives on your generosity.


Thank you and God bless,


Spencer Shelton


Here are more poems from our horticulture class at Burruss CTC:


Humble Rose

By Christian P


The rose

Is humble as it dwells in bright light

In plain sight

But it is hidden


The rose calls their name as they approach

But is silent, covered in pricks and thorns

But is not violent


The rose stands out among trees

Weeds and full leaves but goes unnoticed

Under its own humble shade


The pedals are never extended with pride

But minimized with simple colors.


As they walk past they notice the rose

For its beauty but the rose will always

Stay humble.


Untitled

By Cole S.


Plants grow just like us

Just like plants we have a body

They grow from a seed just like you and me.


The seed’s might be different but we

Grow the same way day by day night by night

As we grow both are alike in many ways


As plants grow we learn something new

They have a purpose to fulfil just like

Me and you, we have names we all

Change but we all grow the same


At the end of our days we have all changed

Some grow tall some grow small but at the

end of the day we are still the same


Untitled

By D. A.


The plant cycle goes round and round

Dig a hole 5 inches in the ground

Make a lot of holes so you can feed the hole town

Put the seed in the hole sometimes it will fail

Separate so you can walk make a little trail

Water often this isn’t rocket science you don’t need a scale

Don’t over do because they will drown

A plant gonna feed you so it needs to be the other way around

Don't do direct contact with fertiliser they will die

Harvest the plants every week so you can save time

Cut up the vegetables and put them in a pot

Let them simmer make a main dish

I pray my plants grow time to make another wish


The Growing Hay

By Dawson M.


The sun shines

As the water sprinkles

The root grows

As you know

Minerals in the dirt

Makes medicine as you hurt

As the worms move

The people groove

What's the good of a plant

And the seed is as small as an ant

What a happy day

For the growing hay


Glory of Plants and Life

By Frederick F.


When growing up living like a plant

At a young age helping out with rent

Any day can be your time just be ready

My hearts just like a root the growth is just steady

One wrong step and your process goes to waste

Put the plant in the hole and all you do is raise

Without the sun your process starts over

Without water you wont get older

Turn the temperature up I cant get no colder

Raised by my mother my father was a jail bird

My gut told me I wasn’t going to fall behind these walls I feel for it

Put my fear in the lord he gone correct your ways

Another day I wake up make my bed all I’m doing is flipping another page

We’re 17 they got us like gorillas and lions locked inside one big cage

Fighting for position or whose better we eating all the same trays

Wake up put the same clothes on even on the same time frame

We’re just like plants some grow some don’t

It's up to you if you let the devil take you I know I wont


Untitled

By Hagan F.


Sunshine comes with rainy days

When you get locked up

Just like a leaf they all start to float away

Teardrops running down the rose petal

I wish she would forget-me-not

Learned from my mistakes

Gave it all I got

I hope that I can grow better


Pray I see the sun again, no sunflower

Trying to hold on but its a battle

Trying to get as much wisdom as I can

But like a tree trying to grow

It takes years not hours


Love and affection, that's all I need

Crazy how something so beautiful

Comes from a tiny seed

Tell me, where can I find the one for me

Because I’m tired of going flower to flower

Spreading pollen and nectar

Like a majestic bumble bee


The Watermelon Patch

By Hagan W.


Once upon a time

Long ago

I planted a seed

And watched it grow

It grew large and healthy and strong

Til one day I came along

I reached down and sliced the stem

And carried my prize to the den

I sliced it open to the watery red meat

And savored sweet treat

I enjoyed the treat to the ultimate extent

And I stayed there till it was spent


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