Logo with a gold A and blue P E P and blue text that spells out Augustana Prison Education Program

A Day in the Life

A Day in the Life shares stories from faculty, students, and APEP Student Assistants. These stories aim to give insight into APEP: how it works, and how it impacts participants.


Annelisa Burns '22 Student Tutor 2021-22; GTA 2022-23

"In October ‘21, two other RWC tutors and I got to go into EMCC and tutor in prison as part of Jake Romaniello’s ENGL 101 class. I was honored to be one of the first Rock Island students to meet our incarcerated classmates–we were the first of their Rock Island classmates that they were meeting, too. When we finished, one of the APEP students said that he hoped we learned as much from them as they learned from us–a statement that demonstrated that this was a special moment of connection between Augustana students from the two campuses.

The “teach the tutor” ENGL 101 lesson that we did in EMCC was a great way to integrate peer tutors into the APEP classroom because the lesson flips the script and has the student prepare a lesson to teach the tutor some concept or idea from one of their other classes. This lesson shows students that if you can teach a concept to someone else, then you’ve mastered the concept. 

One of the APEP students taught me a lesson on REM cycles and the best length for a nap (30 or 90 minutes); another taught me that when you engage multiple senses simultaneously, it helps your memory (so maybe studying while listening to music is a good idea); and the third gave me a primer on Buddhism and the Eightfold Path complete with flash cards (which inspired my Honors Capstone Project on theology and incarceration).

I learned that tutoring in prison is different from tutoring in Rock Island--for example, we negotiate our priorities differently. Within the Augie bubble, we can preach that, in general, things like organization and thesis statements are more important than things like grammar. I really believe in this part of the RWC philosophy, but in the APEP context, it needs to be adjusted. 

Incarcerated students, many of whom haven’t seen the inside of a classroom in decades, are oftentimes literally writing for their lives, like when they write letters for parole. Grammar issues, like knowing when to use a comma versus when to use a period, are 1) not to be taken for granted and 2) really important if it’s going to make the difference between whether someone gets parole or not.

When I walked out of EMCC, I told my friends that this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. I began thinking of ways that I could continue with this kind of work in grad school and continue working with APEP. After spending the summer of 2022 doing administrative assistant work for APEP, I will be co-teaching ENGL 101 with Jake as part of APEP in the fall as well as working to establish the RWCInside, a satellite RWC in our satellite EMCC campus. I’ve learned so much from everyone involved in APEP–from the dedicated faculty, to the inspirational students at EMCC, to my fellow peer tutors who also got to tutor in prison. It has been the greatest gift, truly."