Oxy in Action

Oxy Students, IOW Alumni and staff

Oxy Students, IOW Alumni and staff

The Alumni Program’s efforts to empower and build the capacity of formerly incarcerated youth would not be possible without the support of key community partners.  Occidental College is one such partner, and its campus has proven to be a fertile ground for cultivating outstanding volunteers who have devoted significant time and resources to support both the Alumni and Writing Programs.


Oxy faculty and students lead writing classes and life skills workshops and for the last year, two students, Liz Little and Emma Zack, served as office interns, providing a variety of administrative and programmatic support.


Emma recently spearheaded a documentary screening and open mic event on campus to bring awareness to the complicated issues of juvenile incarceration.


 “Interning with IOW has been an incredible experience. The open mic last Thursday, which featured four IOW Alumni, perfectly illustrated the meaning of community.”

– Emma Zack


On March 28th, IOW Alumni joined Oxy students and faculty at a screening of Cyntoia’s Story: Me Facing Life, which follows 16-year-old Cyntoia for six years following her arrest for murder.  Cyntoia who was tried as an adult, was convicted and sentenced to life at the Tennessee Prison for Women.

Following the screening, the film’s producer/director, Daniel Birman and IOW Alumni participated in a panel discussion.  According to Mr. Birman, there was no question that a 43-year-old man was dead and that Cynotia killed him.  What mystified him was just how common violence is among youth, and just how rarely we stop to question our assumptions about it.  Alumni shared their experiences with the juvenile justice system and their re-entry trials and tribulations.


On March 29th, Occidental also played host to the first-ever OXY/IOW Open Mic Event.  IOW Alumni and Oxy students shared the stage, reciting special pieces written specifically for the day.


David Sumlin read his piece When the Mist Clears:


“I’m on my way there,

I’m practically here

I know which way to go

Now that the mist has cleared.”


Thank you to everyone at Oxy for their support.  We look forward to further building this partnership.