WU student shares Prisoner's Poetry program with international audience

by University Communications,

On behalf of the Prisoner’s Poetry team at Willamette University, Rey Goicochea ’13 is attending Clinton Global Initiative University in St. Louis April 5-7.

The purpose of the program is to gather leaders from diverse backgrounds to develop innovative solutions to pressing global challenges — from education and climate change to public health and poverty.

“I am looking at it as a wonderful opportunity to learn more about social change and how to make an organization sustainable,” Goicochea says. “I look forward to meeting other young leaders from across the globe and learning about how they are working to make the world a better place.”

Former President Bill Clinton launched the initiative in 2007. Since then, the conference has attracted nearly 1,200 students, youth organizations, topic experts and celebrities each year.

Goicochea was chosen because of the Prisoner’s Poetry program he developed with Rey Ayala ’14 in 2012. Through the program, Willamette students teach poetry basics to inmates of the Oregon State Penitentiary. The goal is to help the prisoners express their creativity and make better choices for themselves.

“I have been selected to have a booth at the conference, where I will discuss the model of Prisoner’s Poetry, what we have done and how we hope our work contributes to the conversation regarding prison policy and sentencing reform,” Goicochea says.

Prisoner’s Poetry has grown to include six Willamette students — including Amy Snodgrass ’15 — who are helping with fundraising, sustainability and organizational support.

“The national attention our program is receiving further validates our effort and passion,” Snodgrass says. “We hope that this conference will encourage more people to support Prisoner’s Poetry and similar social justice causes.”

For more information about Prisoner’s Poetry, visit the group’s blog, “Prisoner’s Poetry: Self-Expression for All Souls”.