“From Prison to Purpose” Panel Inspires Audiences

“From Prison to Purpose” Panel Inspires Audiences

Rider University’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion hosted a poignant panel discussion
on Thursday, February 22, 2024, focusing on themes of rehabilitation, redemption, and
rewriting narratives for individuals formerly incarcerated. The event, part of the
university’s Social Justice and Equity Symposium, aimed to shed light on the journeys of
those who have navigated the complexities of the criminal justice system.

The panel, composed of individuals with diverse backgrounds and experiences, offered
compelling insights into their personal struggles and triumphs. Among the distinguished
panelists was Trenton’s Nyene Baker, Founder of Visionary Philanthropy Group Inc/Nerds with Swag. Reflecting on the significance of the occasion, Baker noted that it marked the
14th anniversary of his arrest by the FBI—a pivotal moment that he described as the
worst day of his life. Determined to prevent others from enduring similar hardships,
Baker courageously shared his story.

The seamless cohesion of the panelists’ narratives painted a vivid picture, captivating
the audience with raw authenticity. Shane West, Owner of West Point Training,
recounted his journey from being ranked number one in the nation in high school to
finding himself in federal prison. Donte Thomas, Owner of Team Chizell, spoke candidly
about succumbing to the allure of the drug trade, despite his background as an innocent
athlete. Ella Nesmith, Author and Owner of Ella Nes Publications, detailed how her
relationship with the wrong  guy led her down a path to federal prison.

Baker delved into his upbringing, describing it as akin to a perpetual movie where he
transitioned from a mere observer to an active participant in illegal activities. His
harrowing account highlighted the grim realities of addiction and illicit dealings that
permeated his environment.

Gratitude was extended to Dr. Reggie Walker by Baker and all the panelists for extending the invitation to participate in the event. The meticulous orchestration of the symposium was credited to Dr. Reggie Walker, Dr. Victor Thompson, the moderator, Dr. Pearlie Mae Peters, and Senior Student, Kayla McIntyre. The collaboration of Rider University’s Educational Opportunity Program, the Black Student Union, the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, and the Multicultural Studies Program contributed to the success of the Prison to Purpose Panel.

Special guests included Community Leader, Mike Melton of New Hope Behavioral
Health and Rehabilitation in New Hope, NJ, who brought a group of young adults and Teri Moore from the Federal Public Defender Office Reentry Program, who came to support Baker. Baker expressed profound gratitude for Moore’s presence, acknowledging her unwavering support. The panel discussion served as a testament to the power of storytelling in fostering empathy and understanding. By amplifying the voices of those who have walked the path of redemption, Rider University’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion continues to champion social justice and equity.

The post “From Prison to Purpose” Panel Inspires Audiences first appeared on TrentonDaily.

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