On Friday April 13, 2018, six members of Civil Survival traveled to Washington State University to give a rousing panel discussion about the transformative power of higher education at the school’s Foley Institute. The panelists included Christopher Poulos, Executive Director of the Statewide Reentry Council, Tarra Simmons, Civil Survival Executive Director and Civil Survival members James Jackson, Christopher Beasley, Gina Castillo, and Omari Amili. The heart of the discussion was summed up by Mr. Poulos, who proclaimed that “Higher education is the antidote to recidivism.”

The event was well-attended and included students, professors, faculty members and state lawmakers. Civil Survival Board Member and WSU PhD candidate, Noel Vest, served as moderator while the panel shared their stories and gave inspiring accounts of overcoming barriers to achieve top grades and academic honors. Tarra Simmons stated that she had done very well in law school only to eventually be told that she was not “morally fit” to be a lawyer by the Washington State Bar Association’s Character and Fitness Board. She appealed the decision in a hearing before the Washington State Supreme Court, which issued a very rare same-day unanimous ruling in her favor. She was also able to share with the audience that she had received the results of her bar exam that morning and that she “crushed it.”

Civil Survival is proud of the work that we are able to do across the state and this was an event that shows the impact of advocacy efforts for formerly incarcerated students.  Watch the full panel discussion.