Mary Pastore, BMC ’25

Partnership with 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: 

Mary Pastore_Poster_Final_S24


Further Context:

This semester I volunteered for the Petey Greene Program, an organization dedicated to providing incarcerated and formerly incarcerated students access to respectful, trained tutors and rewarding educational programming. I was introduced to PGP in the spring of 2023, when I took an Inside-Out class of half incarcerated students and half Bryn Mawr students at SCI Chester. When I learned that there was an opportunity to volunteer with them through Praxis this year, I jumped at the chance.

The Petey Greene Program was founded in 2008 and has volunteer groups across the East Coast. To become a tutor with PGP, volunteers must partake in multiple national training sessions, covering topics from “The Carceral State and Educational Justice” to “Ethical Volunteerism and Intentional Engagement.” Tutors are also required to attend seminars focused on Tutor Development and Justice Education; these sessions are designed to ensure that tutors have a comprehensive understanding of carceral environments and the barriers that incarcerated students face throughout their journeys.

Lucy and I tutored weekly at Beyond Literacy, which offers classes in adult education and workforce training for citizens of Philadelphia in need. We worked with students to prepare for the Social Studies and Reasoning through Language Arts sections of the GED test. These subjects ostensibly test students’ reading comprehension and ability to analyze literature, grammar skills, understanding of graphs and maps, and critical reasoning. In reality, they test a student’s ability to choose the “best” answer, not the “right” one, and they ask students to work quickly by recognizing patterns and thinking how the GED’s creators want them to think. Each session, we worked through challenging practice questions, and the more problems the students solved, the more they could justify their correct answers and explain why they chose one option over another. I saw real improvement in my student’s work, and I am very impressed by his work ethic and determination; he has served as a great role model for my own studies!

In addition, we have had the opportunity to read incarcerated students’ writing through the College Bridge program. PGP has created a class for students at SCI Phoenix to practice their academic writing; the skills they learn in class can then be used to apply to Villanova and pass the entrance exam, with the goal of obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies. I read students’ thoughtful essays and kept up with their readings, creating discussion questions that could be used in class. It was a joy to read their unique writing styles and encourage them to have more faith in their own abilities. I truly hope that every student writes a great essay for Villanova and gets the amazing chance to pursue their studies.

Working with the Petey Greene Program has been an incredible experience. Everyone I’ve met, from students to advisors and teachers, has been enthusiastic, kind, and driven. I have become a better teacher, but even more importantly, I am more comfortable in new environments and more confident taking risks and stepping out of my comfort zone. I learned so much about how I can support incarcerated and formerly incarcerated learners, but I want to learn even more. My readings in class with Professor Karen have given me a great starting point from which to do more research about incarceration in the US and how educational justice is evolving. I hope to stay connected with PGP and share their mission with others who want to make a difference in incarcerated people’s lives.