Voices From The Row

By L. SAMUEL CAPERS

Part 2 of a 2-Part interview with Ms. Aida, former Death Row teacher.

As you are aware, many convicts come from rough backgrounds – the hood, barrio, etc. Do you understand us because you, too, overcame such conditions, growing up as a child?

I did not come from a rough background. But my family was very giving and helpful to those in need. We were taught that a compassionate heart is worth so much. That our happiness and joy depend on to what degree we are willing to help.

Many of us grew up being told that we did not have a chance because of our environment, skin color, financial status, etc. You, on the other hand, give us hope and the encouragement that we are not used to getting. What is the percentage, do you think, of those who completed their schooling in San Quentin that have moved on to bigger and better things?

I would say that maybe 10 percent.

In the eyes of society that may not be much, but to those of us here that 10 percent is a huge accomplishment. How many of your former students have paroled, been discharged, and are now living productive lives in society?

I have had the pleasure of seeing many of my students who have paroled out in the world living productive lives. Several of them have thriving musical careers. I would say around 15 percent.

Who will be taking your place on the East Block?

I will do my best to pass the baton to a person that is sincerely interested in the program continuing.

Although you will be moving on your name will never be forgotten. It will be a bittersweet day for us here on The Row. Lastly, for those who are having second thoughts about finishing school, do you have any encouraging words and/or advice for them?

I think any completion of a program we start is good food for the soul. As we are showing the universe that our intention was solid from the beginning. Also, we gain power and strength when we follow through with ourselves, only to accomplish what is next in our lives that we would like to attain. Self-confidence and patience are gained when we complete an education program.

Thank you Aida for the words of encouragement and wisdom. You are truly a diamond in the rough. It would be nice to have more teachers as well as staff like Aida to lift up the lowly in spirit and give them a chance to get it right, this time around…

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