Former Student, MMC’s Bedford Hills College Program
“The BHCP has taught me that dreaming and achieving your goals takes dedication and discipline. Professors and staff not only inspire you with the work they have done, but they help you create new dreams and new ideas…they give you the tools and, most necessary, the support to navigate difficult circumstances using the elevated mind.”
Sherika Stewart enrolled in MMC’s Bedford Hills College Program after seeing the “peace, purpose, and freedom” other women at the maximum-security facility had found as students. “The culture [in the Program] is one that upholds productivity, while fostering a loving and genuine environment,” says Stewart. “This is done in the midst of some of our most tragic and traumatic life experiences.”
It was through her time working towards an Associate’s degree in Social Science that Stewart learned to believe in herself. “I would love to lift up Aileen Baumgartner (Program Director), Mimi Nangle and all of the professors I have met who have a passion and interest in seeing the women they teach excel beyond the boundaries of their circumstance,” she explains. “Comprehensively, every moment spent in class made me feel human again, because once we stepped out we were no longer great thinkers. We became again just a DIN (Department Identification Number), we became property of the state.”
After her release, Stewart began work as a legal assistant at a law firm and continued courses full-time at the Borough of Manhattan Community College. She is also taking a course through John Jay College’s Prisoner Reentry Institute and has discovered an affinity for museums, spending as much of her free time visiting them as possible.
For current students, Stewart advises asking questions. “Understand how each process works, from financial aid to asking for scholarships, joining organizations on campus or participating in events….just ask questions. Education is the key, seriously!”