Elena Haskins, a senior at Ithaca College, is a student leader active in addressing educational injustice in the prison system of the United States. For the past two years, she has been the leader of the student organization HEARD - Human Expression through the Arts: A Resident Development Program. As the leader of HEARD, she works with her group to bring a variety of visual and performing arts groups from Ithaca College to MacCormick Secure Center in Brooktondale, NY, so that the youth incarcerated at MacCormick can have access to the arts in their lives. HEARD has hosted many artist groups for the youth at MacCormick, including beat boxing, painting, poetry, dance, African drumming, and more.
The best way to promote change or to address the root of social issues is to learn and observe as much information as you can, and to put a face to an issue. I've been doing that by getting to know the people that are directly affected by the cycle of incarceration. I've given the residents an opportunity to create their own individual identities and stories, rather than be just a statistic or face in a crowd. The United States has the largest incarceration rate in the world. This is perpetuated by the lack of support for re-entry into society, emotional, and intellectual stimulation during time in incarceration. By providing and facilitating arts education and social rehabilitation for the residents it allows for personal and social development. Collaboration with other organizations and community partners during this process allows expansion of education about juvenile incarceration, as well as more social interaction for the residents. Creative arts also allows the residents to express themselves and have a safe space to put their thoughts and feelings into something tangible.