Inmates from Ellsworth Correctional Facility raised and donated $700 to the program, which helps provide items like food, clothing and even eye glasses to needy students, Carmen Schaefer, Ottawa Middle School principal, said. The gift came after two of the inmates — Scott Reiner and Cesar Bocardo — spoke in early October to sixth-grade students at the middle school, as part of a Communities in Schools effort to educate students about life choices.
“It was powerful. You could have heard a pin drop,” Schaefer said. “It was so well received that we wanted to give the other students at the school the chance to hear from them.”
Reiner and Bocardo returned this month to Ottawa to speak to seventh- and eighth-grade students.
“They were really excited by the opportunity to go visit the school, and they did a great job,” Todd Britton, Ellsworth Correctional Facility information coordinator, said. “They saw that they had a chance to make a difference, and they really were motivated when they went back to make a financial contribution to the program.”
The early teen years are crucial for character development, Schaefer said, and she believes the two visits by the inmates were effective. Schaefer said the students found the inmates’ account of life in prison particularly fascinating.
“What they said really moved the students,” she said. “They really stressed that the choices kids make now will really impact their futures. The students walked away with a real impression of what life in prison is like and the seriousness of their choices.”