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Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Officials to clear homeless encampment near campus in May
By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • March 4, 2024

Students tutor incarcerated youth in D.C. region after relaunching GW chapter this year

Photo Illustration by Jennifer Igbonoba | Staff Photographer
Liesl Riddle said she will implement programs like “Semester in Washington” and “Professional Access Roundtables” to connect students to local professionals.

A student organization that visits local detention centers and alternative schools to tutor formerly and currently incarcerated individuals is working to boost its membership after reestablishing its organization on campus this semester.

Students at the GW chapter of the national Petey Greene Program – which trains and sends students and community volunteers into alternative schools and juvenile service centers to tutor students in high school equivalency programs – relaunched as a student organization this semester after pausing its program due to the pandemic. GW is one of the three universities with a chapter that partners with the regional PGP branch, along with Howard University and the University of Maryland, College Park, and tutors students so they can obtain a high school diploma or equivalent and prepare for postsecondary education.

GW PGP tutors can teach students at the Youth Services Center near Gallaudet University, where they work with 50 to 60 students, or at the D.C. Jail near Barney Circle. Students said they tutor students in math, English, social studies, science and GED and college preparation, and they work with students in individual and group settings. 

Norma Dhanaraj, the regional manager of the D.C. branch of PGP, asked Maggie McQuillan, a sophomore majoring in criminal justice, to restart the GW chapter at the start of the school year after she tutored students through the PGP program last year with two other GW students. McQuillan said she worked to register PGP as a student organization this semester and grow its campus presence through training and tabling events.

“Our role here on campus is to recruit tutors and educate the greater GW community about our mission and how they can get involved and help that very specific community,” McQuillan said.

The national PGP was founded in 2008 and named after the late Ralph Waldo “Petey” Greene – a D.C. radio host who brought awareness to the structural barriers incarcerated people face when trying to matriculate back into society, like submitting job applications. The organization currently offers programs in eight states and D.C.

McQuillan said she remains an active tutor herself by going to the Youth Services Center once a week. She said she stumbled upon the PGP website her freshman year and thought it would be a good opportunity to see how the American criminal justice system operates. 

“We sometimes take for granted how lucky we are to be able to go to a school like GW,” McQuillan said. “For a lot of us, it is kind of the expectation that we go to college, and that is not a reality for a lot of people.”

Owen Hagstrom, the vice president of GW PGP, said he focused on expanding GW PGP’s student outreach efforts on campus through fundraising events like a lemonade sale for the national organization in Kogan Plaza last week. He said he has maintained communication with Howard University’s PGP chapter to sustain off-campus outreach efforts. 

“It’s just such an opportunity to help those who need it and help people in need,” Hagstrom said. “Incarcerated people, as I mentioned earlier, are disproportionately affected in terms of education, and to have the opportunity to try to help that in some way is amazing.” 

Formerly incarcerated people are nearly twice as likely to not have a high school education or equivalent degree than the general public and even less likely to obtain a college degree, according to the Prison Policy Initiative.

Nick Lochrie, a senior majoring in international affairs, said he tutors students in English and history at the Youth Services Center through the D.C. chapter of PGP. Lochrie said tutors provide students with a holistic education beyond core subjects, including lessons on financial literacy, driver’s license registration and college applications because government programs do not ensure students from different socioeconomic backgrounds have access to those resources.

“There seems to be a disconnect between the supportive policies and what’s happening in our communities,” Lochrie said. 

Jamie Taglang, the treasurer of PGP, said the organization raised more than $300 from their lemonade fundraiser last week, which will go toward school supplies for incarcerated youth and transportation for tutors. He said the event helped expand the program’s presence among students at the University and encouraged students to follow GW PGP on Instagram to get involved.

“The more tutors, the better, the more awareness, the better, and the more tangible impact you can have, the better,” Taglang said. “But it is not all about numbers, numbers, numbers. We want good tutors getting in, and that is what we have so far.”

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