A self-help program that gives San Quentin residents the opportunity to learn the dominant traits of their personality held its annual graduation in the prison’s Protestant Chapel in mid-January.
The 12-week course, Enneagram Prison Project, gives participants the chance to live free even while living behind the wall.
Patrick Demery, one of the 33 graduates, sat in a circle with supporters and other visiting guests to celebrate accomplishments in the program.
“I have never had a soft place to land and [this program has] given me that soft place. I was afraid to allow myself to be vulnerable. You know more about me than anybody on this earth. [The program] has taught me that I deserve love, peace, and safety,” said Demery.
The program is supported by Susan Olesek. She teaches participants how to free themselves from their own prisons. Nine personality identifiers help participants understand past experiences and how their dominant personality traits molded past situations and relationships.
Formerly incarcerated members also attended the graduation, sharing their experiences with Enneagram and talking about how it continues to affect their lives today.
“I discovered that all the things that I wanted or needed in my life were already in me. Life is hard but if you have the will, EPP has the way for you. It’s not about who I was before, but about who I am today,” said Chuck Stubblefield.
Stubblefield has been working with the project for nine years. When he was a resident of San Quentin he met Olesek in one of the very first Enneagram circles. Since 2020, Stubblefield has been the manager of a program in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco where he helps the people in that area.
Many board members, ambassadors, and administrative staff who participate in the success of the Enneagram program attended. Like Stubblefield, Alex Senegal is a key figure in Enneagram. He also met Olesek while incarcerated. He dedicates his life to the success and rehabilitation of people who have no voice.
“I love being able to participate in my life. I wrestled and struggled with anything good about me, [but] because Alex learned how to love Alex, all this goodness flows out to others because everyone is worth having that. To have conversations with my kids and family and give them the support they need as a dad and a grandfather is also important to me,” said Senegal.
Olesek opened the floor to the graduating class asking, “Where are you right now?” Many graduates stood and spoke about their experiences, their personality types, and the meaning of learning that information.
Another graduate, who described his type as a “nine,” said that acquiring this information allowed him to understand the loyalty issues he had prior to incarceration. He noted that the program could be a solution to incarceration because individuals learn about themselves.
As the graduation ended, attendees shared lunch and conversed with alumni, administration, volunteers, and staff as they look forward to the next session of the Enneagram Prison Project.
“One of the greatest things to invest in is people. EPP introduced Alex to Alex and I’m so thankful that somebody loved me when I didn’t love myself,” said Senegal.