Lucy Benson, BMC ’25

Educational Justice and the Petey Greene Program

Semester: Spring 2024

Praxis Course: SOCL 420 Social Justice and Social Change

Faculty Advisor: David Karen

Field Site: The Petey Greene Program /  Beyond Literacy

Field Supervisor: Chiara Benetollo

Praxis Poster: 

Lucy Benson_Poster_Final_S24


Further Context:

My praxis experience was in partnership with the Petey Greene Program of Philadelphia. PGP “supports the academic goals of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people through high-quality volunteer tutoring programs, while educating volunteers on the injustice manifest in our carceral system.” Our original plan was to tutor with the College Bridge Program at SCI Phoenix. However, our tutor clearances didn’t go through and we pivoted to Beyond Literacy, a GED prep program in Philadelphia. Prior to beginning, we received training over Zoom. Topics ranged from tutoring strategies to food justice in prisons. This was also an opportunity to meet and talk with tutors from other regions. During our placement we worked with students on the Reading and Language Arts section of the GED, working through practice problems every week. This was the most memorable part of my praxis, as it was the most social and connective part of the work. Later in the semester, we also supported the College Bridge Programming from the outside by providing feedback on students assessments and serving a TA role.

It can be difficult for those on the outside to get cleared to access and bring services into prison. For us, this meant delays and eventually having to move to a program outside a facility. We did a lot of waiting to hear back from prison and there was a lot of uncertainty in the process. Another challenge was the test itself. The GED is a frustrating and tricky test that is a poor measurement of intelligence and knowledge. But with Beyond Literacy we were able to have conversations about the staggering limitations of standardized testing and how difficult our society makes educational success. While frustrating, the setbacks connected us with the people at Beyond Literacy and gave us a new opportunity. Also, they showed the persistence and kindness of the PGP who supported us throughout and worked to continue providing educational services into places that are hostile towards them.

Working within the prison system is difficult and trying work. Prisons do not want to support humanity-affirming services and inside-outside connections. This type of work is important and valuable but must exist alongside other advocacy work to dismantle the Prison Industrial Complex.  Education is both a site of harm and healing, especially for communities most directly affected by state violence. Approaching tutoring requires consideration of former schooling experiences and must center student-led approaches. The PGP team wants to foster connections and support both tutors and students. They worked hard to place us and include us in this process. In the future, I want to continue imagining what alternatives to prisons can and will exist in our world.