Zachary Thomas, a junior at John Carroll University, is a student leader recognized for his vision, leadership, and commitment to civic engagement both on John Carroll University's campus and in the community. Through Zachary's involvement in service-learning at the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center for the past three years, he has become extremely interested in finding ways use the power of writing to release the vision and voice of the residents in the detention center to transform their sense of self and their power to choose a different future. Zachary has worked with other students and his English professors to create a new program called, "Writers in Residence." The goal of this new program is to use the power of writing to reduce recidivism among youth in the detention center. Zachary and his co-founders have developed the program, secured the approval of the correctional officials, won the support of JCU faculty, and enlisted and trained other students to lead and facilitate this program weekly in two facilities, the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center and Cuyahoga Hills Juvenile Correctional Facility.
As a writer, I understand the freedom that words give us to describe our thoughts and feelings, so when I realized that the residents at Cleveland's Juvenile Detention Center and Cuyahoga Hills Correctional Facility did not have a formal opportunity for creative expression and self-reflection on their past, present, and future circumstances, the following questions lead me to action:
How would you feel if your freedom, along with the normalcy of your name, racial/ethnic identity, and dignity, was divided by zero? Then, what if you do not have the opportunity to express your feelings and thoughts?
As I worked with the Center for Service and Social Action from my freshman year to now, I learned about the wide variety of local social justice issues that influence the community, some of which increases incarceration rates, such as a lack of education. Thankfully to Rachel Schratz, Michalena Mezzopera, and Anthony Shoplik for their commitment to start a program with me designed to facilitate a creative writing workshop for the residents at the Juvenile Detention Center and Cuyahoga Hills Correctional Facility because otherwise, Writers in Residence would not exist.