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My Park

By Joy Danielle Doss-Cornelison

College Guild Student

When I first learned of College Guild, I was very angry and felt both hopeless and helpless. I'd been stripped of my individuality, ridiculed and belittled, robbed of human dignity and respect and shoved in a cage and forgotten by society.

Society had showed me their opinion – I was worthless and horrible.

I have always loved to learn and read, and in fact, one of the worst aspects of prison is the lack of reading material – especially educational and nonfiction. So when I saw the advertisement for College Guild I got excited. Something I could learn from but little did I know what I was getting into!

I remember one of the first units I did required me to design a park. Mind you, I had never given a single thought to park design before this, but I didn’t let that stop me. I enthusiastically set about designing a park.

To this day – many years later – I still have the reader response from that unit. The reader was so positive. They saw potential in me. They asked if I had ever studied landscape design or considered a career as a landscape architect. I’d never heard of a landscape architect! The reader enthused about my park design’s creativity.

For the first time in years, someone was showing me respect. Someone treated me as an equal. Someone saw me as worthy. Someone saw in me potential. I remember the disbelief I felt. The shock and later awe. I brushed it off – refused to believe. After all, life had showed me if it is too good to be true, then it probably is.

It took a while for me to believe, to trust. The people at College Guild help me rebuild my trust and faith in humanity. College Guild helped me rebuild myself – and it all started with designing a park. Who’d a thunk it?

It has been many years since that unit, but I still get excited when I get mail from College Guild. I still get a sense of awe reading the reader’s response. Not all of the reader feedback has been as glowing as that one, but each one still treats me as an equal, as someone worthy of respect, someone with potential. You could simply say that I’m treated as someone-with a capital S. I’m treated as a person and not an object. It is an amazing feeling.

I will never forget being asked to design a park or how it changed my life. I will never forget the awesome yet overwhelming feeling of being seen, of being heard. I had given up believing it would ever happen again.

I have been through a lot with College Guild. I have done lots of lessons and

helped in a few fundraisers, but nothing has come close to that initial feeling of amazement. College Guild took away the sense of shame and worthlessness that society had instilled in me. They set me free.

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