Rakeem Golson, 28, recently earned his associate’s degree from NYU’s Prison Education Program in a ceremony at Wallkill Correctional Facility, graduating with a 3.92 GPA. He was also an active member of the student committee, and representative for the Inmate Liaison Committee.
Aunray Stanford: What prompted you to apply to NYU’s PEP?
Rakeem Golson: Initially, when I heard about it, I couldn’t believe I had an opportunity to apply. The name NYU carries so much prestige. Then I began to think how useful it could be for my future — and the person I aspire to become, by opening my mind to different things. That was September, 2016.
AS: What class did you favorite in the program?
RG: I don’t know, bruh. I had a lot of great classes. But the class I think I wanted the most was public speaking, to overcome my shutting down. That class endowed me with tools that now give me comfort in group discussions and addressing audiences.
AS: What challenges did you face while in the program?
RG: Navigating the prison environment, the distractions, tension, oppression, just remaining focused throughout it all, and still putting forth my best effort in the program.
AS: What are your plans for post-release?
RG: First, I plan to continue furthering my education. NYU’s School of Professional Studies offers programs in Applied Science in Business, and Applied Science in Information Systems Management; I’m eager to start. I’m also now a certified optician, so I have business endeavors in that area I’d like to pursue — maybe open an optical store. Then there’s my non-profit organization. I’m just eager to use my education to create greater economic and social opportunities for myself.
AS: Now that you’ve successfully obtained your associates degree, how do you feel?
RG: It’s inexpressible. This is my greatest accomplishment in prison: to learn that the only limitations I have to deal with are the ones I set for myself. It’s validation. I know what I could’ve been had I chosen this route earlier, what I can be and who I am.
AS: What advice do you have for future applicants and new members of PEP?
RG: This program is what you make of it. If you’re open minded and motivated to learn about the world and your place in it you’ll receive the optimal experience. There’re great teachers, faculty, that genuinely believe in you and put a lot into this program. Reciprocate their efforts and it’ll definitely be worth it.
This story has been approved for publication by an official with Wallkill Correctional Facility.
Aunray Stanford is a student in NYU’s Prison Education Program. Email him at [email protected]