Reggie is Ready to Pay it Forward

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After completing Web Development Fundamentals, The Last Mile students continue to expand their knowledge and further their education with an introduction to the MERN stack–which focuses on MySQL, Express, React and Node– to round out their skills. With knowledge from the previous course, students in MERN eventually create their own website presentation of their choosing. It could be anything from an application to an online video game.

Reggie, a thoughtful and soft spoken TLM participant at San Quentin State Prison, is currently developing his MERN stack potential and creating his website application in conjunction with a nostalgic passion – music. Before beginning his journey within The Last Mile, Reggie made a promise to himself to get the highest form of STEM education possible, and he found that possible in San Quentin through TLM. He mastered the Web Development Fundamentals, learning Javascript, HTML, and CSS, before moving on to MERN. “The only thing I had was computer literacy, and that’s only so much,” says Reggie, who goes on to explain his final thesis project– an online application where you can find, buy, and trade classic and original vinyl called “Vinyl Exchange”. As he scrolls through his website, his eyes light up at potential scenarios of people discovering classic vinyl albums that they would otherwise not be able to find. He lists some of the records he has put on the website, like Michael Jackson, Run DMC, and Marvin Gaye. While scrolling through to show how a user would purchase an album, Reggie sheds light on why he chose this specific avenue for his MERN project. “It’s nostalgic for me. Despite the background that I came from, music seems to be a central thing.” Reggie shares that whenever he feels down, he remembers the times he’d spend with friends and family listening to music.

Tlm Sanquentin Dec23 77
Tlm Sanquentin Dec23 77

But music isn’t the only thing that provides support and encouragement for Reggie while he is incarcerated. “The TLM program has been so meaningful to me because they create a family environment,” says Reggie, as he praises the classroom facilitators, Jon and Katy, for encouraging him in the classroom when things get difficult. Reggie reflects that a huge obstacle for him in the classroom was simply learning how to ask for help – how imposter syndrome can set in when something doesn’t make sense or when he makes a mistake. He shares that now he is comfortable asking for help, and that because of this shift he receives consistent and knowledgeable support from TLM staff, as well as motivation from his peers. A bright smile comes over him as he thinks back to this support system and how he pushed through to get where is now, finishing the MERN program and looking toward what’s next.

When asked what he wants to do with his education through The Last Mile, Reggie gives a straightforward answer: he wants to help his city of Oakland and build community there. Besides coding, Reggie has done a lot of reflection and processing during his time at San Quentin. He speaks on his healing process and how he wants to pass it on, “it’s not for me to hold onto…I want to try and teach other people this kind of control that I’ve got. It was difficult, but it was achievable.”

Watch Reggie’s story here: