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Five senior students in the North Carolina Field Minister Program (NCFMP) gave a live presentation last summer via a virtual meeting platform to the Alliance for Higher Education in Prison, a Denver-based national network that supports higher education for current and formerly incarcerated people.

The NCFMP is a partnership between Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Game Plan for Life, and the North Carolina Department of Public Safety. The partnership aims to change the prison culture in North Carolina from the inside by having long-term incarcerated persons mentor and counsel others who are incarcerated.

The Alliance had reached out to NCFMP because it wanted to learn about its experience of shifting from onsite to virtual instruction.

One of the students, Kelvin Smith, focused on the disadvantages of shifting to remote instruction, citing his experience in Greek I compared to Greek II. The first consisted of in-person instruction and the second shifted to remote instruction.

Greek professor Dr. Merkle takes a relational learning approach to engage students. The shift to remote instruction made the material much harder to learn. Smith advised program leaders, professors, and students to recognize and seek ways to address this setback.

Smith said he came away from his presentation with two key takeaways. First, he was greatly encouraged by the number of people supporting the currently and formerly incarcerated. Eighty-eight members or affiliates of the Alliance watched the presentation. A number of these supporters were once incarcerated and now have advanced degrees and a platform for influence. Second, Smith was encouraged by the eagerness of the audience to learn from the five Field Minister presenters. These takeaways provided a source of hope inside prison.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Global Forum Online has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Timothy Johnson is the assistant editor for The Nash News, a newspaper published out of Nash Correctional Institution in North Carolina, where he is incarcerated. He holds a bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministry with a minor in counseling from Southeast Baptist Theological Seminary. He also works as a graduate assistant and is the editor of the journal Ambassadors in Exile for The College at Southeastern’s North Carolina Field Minister Program (NCFMP), which provides theological training to long-term incarcerated people.