Los Padrinos 2012 Writers’ Retreat: The Future is Not Set in Stone
On June 16, 2012, InsideOUT Writers’ staff and teachers arrived at Los Padrinos Juvenile Hall in the wee hours of the morning to begin preparations for the annual Writer’s Retreat. Fifteen years ago, in 1997, I was a student of the Writing Program and attended the organization’s very first retreat at Central Juvenile Hall. Today, I was attending my first retreat as an IOW staff member. Six other former students of the Writing Program, now proud members of the Alumni Program, volunteered their time and service to prepare the tables and food for the students. Our cheerful banter quickly quieted when the students started filing in from their living units. One thought simultaneously entered our minds: “We were once one of them.”
One by one, 30 students took their places behind the mic with paper in hand, with voices to be heard. Some were nervous about sharing their written creation to a room full of strangers. Others were naturally gifted public speakers. For many, it was their first encounter with public speaking. All allowed themselves to be completely vulnerable and spoke from their heart, successfully touching everyone privileged enough to be in attendance.
IOW teacher and spoken word artist, Gina Loring, and activist Franky Carrillo were the featured guest speakers at the retreat. Gina’s extraordinary delivery of her incomparable poems and her phenomenal singing voice mesmerized the audience. Franky’s deeply moving story of being wrongfully convicted of murder and serving over 20 years in prison before being exonerated and released left the audience in tears. Gina and Franky created a perfect spectrum of emotions that ranged from nirvana to heartache and everything in between.
Near the end of this unforgettable day, I closed the retreat by encouraging each and every one of the students to join the Alumni Program once they were released. Alumni joined me on stage for this special exchange. As I was talking, I gazed into the eyes of the students as they slowly panned across the Alumni’s faces. I saw eyes that initially dripped with despair begin to show the slightest glimmer of hopefulness. It was at that moment that the past and present collided – revealing that the future was not set in stone. None of the Alumni will ever forget this retreat, a day that could only be recreated through the extraordinary work of InsideOUT Writers.
“I saw eyes that initially dripped with despair begin to show the slightest glimmer of hopefulness. It was at that moment that the past and present collided – revealing that the future was not set in stone.“