Matt’s Story

Atonement Scholarship

Thanks to everyone for the kind comments and well wishes for me and my family. We’ve also gotten some good feedback on creating the educational scholarship I mentioned previously. We’re working through the logistics of enabling donations through Facebook, but fortunately have been able raised enough funds outside of Facebook to kick things off. In this post, I would like to tell you about why I want to create this opportunity, and ask that you considering supporting this effort once we’re able to open that up to you all.

When I first began my prison sentence, I was racked with grief over what I had done, and the difficult situation I now found myself in. While I was beginning on the right path, there was still turmoil in my mind and my actions. I felt somewhat like I was on an emotional rollercoaster as I went through the throes of change.

I joined a therapeutic community called OASIS*, and I attribute the man I am today to the guidance I received there. There were both counselors and graduates of the program who I aspired to be more like. The first individual who will be receiving the Atonement Scholarship will be one of these people. In this person, I saw such strength, determination, focus, and grace unlike anything I’d ever seen before. I also saw true remorse and an extreme pain with which he measured every future action he took, something I recognize within myself. I learned that this man had taken a life when he was 16 years old, the rest of his story I will leave to him to tell (which he willingly and openly will do). I did not know him before he decided to change himself, but through the values and character he instilled in himself during his incarceration, I believe he is genuine and sincere in his remorse.

This man’s name is De’Ante Winfrey. He has provided guidance to me throughout my time in the program, and beyond as my friend and someone I respect. Winfrey takes every opportunity he can to better himself, and has gotten involved in every educational program he can. He recently completed his paralegal degree through the prison, just to name one. In watching him continue to be positive, help those around him, and learn everything he can, a thought kept occurring in my mind. “He should have the opportunity to further his education, I want to help get him into college.” This is the thought that continually ran through my mind and inspired me to create this scholarship.

If I’ve learned anything through achieving my own education in here, it’s that guidance and having a purpose are necessary to succeed in life. Those are two factors that are hard to come by in prison, and increasingly hard to come by out there in society as well. This is why I wanted to create the Atonement Scholarship, to give an opportunity for purpose and guidance to an offender, and to the victim, the person the offender has affected through destructive actions. My hope is that providing this opportunity will give the offender the growth needed to never harm anyone again, and that those affected by the crime will have an opportunity to pursue their passion through education. The program for the offender will be through Ohio University’s Correctional Education program (the same one I am in), and the other party receiving the scholarship will be able to apply the funds to any educational institution of their choosing.

I know the idea of investing in an individual who has caused immeasurable harm comes with controversy, but I also know that the love and support I have received after causing a tragedy has helped me to grow and be shaped into a man who will never cause harm again. I’m asking for the same generosity I was given to be extended in hopes of bettering the lives of others, and ultimately society as a whole.

Thank you for reading and for your continued support in so many ways. We’ll keep you up to date on De’Ante’s journey, and will hopefully have donation capabilities up and running soon! With your support, we hope to enhance the lives of victims and offenders continually across time.

-Matthew

*The Oasis Therapeutic Community (TC) is a collaborative effort between the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services, and the Pickaway Correctional Institution servicing male offenders with substance abuse problems. OASIS stands for “Our Awareness of Self Increases Success” and the name was created by its first residents. TC focuses the residents on right living in a pro-social community and recovery through a shared therapeutic structure that includes communal meetings, encounter groups, education, organized recreation, and the like. There are 2 paths in OASIS: one is an Intensive Program Prison model that runs 4 months at PCI and 3 months in the community. The other is a long term program running 9-12 months in the institution. Residents are held to a high degree of accountability. Staff are there to help guide and assist, but the residents are the primary role models holding each other to a high standard.  TC has proven very effective in helping offenders “go home to stay”.
http://drc.ohio.gov/pci

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