What's your education story?

Years after quitting school for the streets, she wants a job helping kids like her

PHOTO: Scott
Excel Center graduate Crystal Anderson.


Chalkbeat journalists ask the people we come across in our work to tell us about their education stories and how learning shaped who they are today. Learn more about this series, and read other installments, here.

We met Crystal Anderson at the graduation ceremony for the Excel Center’s University Heights Campus. She earned professional certifications in business etiquette, customer service and business leadership through the charter school that gives adults a chance to return for their diplomas. She also earned college credits in English and math. She hopes to get a job working with kids in the juvenile justice system.

I moved to Indianapolis about three years ago and I saw a commercial for the Excel Center. It sounded interesting so I picked up the phone and I called. After 10 years of trying to get a GED, I wanted to shoot for a diploma.

I went to Wayne High School in Fort Wayne. I had children early. I was more involved with the streets than with education. I have four children ages 14, 7, 11 and 4. They are all boys. I’m 31 years old.

This was more hands on. It worked for me. It was more personal.

I am pursuing a criminal justice career now. I am already a full-time summer student at Ivy Tech Community College right now. I have learned good skills for being prepared and being on time and being a successful college student.

I am working toward being a counselor in the juvenile justice system. There are things to work out still. I’ve got four years to go, but I can do it.

It feels very overwhelming to graduate. It doesn’t feel real yet. A lot of people said I’d never see this day. It’s very emotional for me. I feel a lot of love. I’m going to miss a lot of people. I came a far way. This experience shows me I can do anything if I put my mind to it.

story slam

Tips for teaching poetry in a women’s prison: ‘Remember, you are not allowed to hug anyone’

PHOTO: Lwp Kommunikáció, Flickr CC
Inmates at the Indiana Women's Prison.

Editor’s note: This story was about a video taken at a story slam hosted by Chalkbeat, Teachers Lounge Indy, WFYI Public Media, and the Indianapolis Public Library. We removed the video at the request of the speaker, who was not authorized to speak publicly about his experience teaching in a women’s prison.

If you are looking for insights about what it’s like to teach poetry in a women’s prison, try this Rumpus piece or this interview with a 20-year veteran of prison schools. You can find more stories from Indianapolis educators, students, and parents here.

It's Friday. Just show a video.

How a push to save some of Indiana’s oldest trees taught this class about the power of speaking out

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy
Students working at the School for Community Learning, a progressive Indianapolis private school that depends on vouchers.

Alayna Pierce was one of seven teachers who participated in story slam sponsored by Chalkbeat, Teachers Lounge Indy, WFYI Public Media and the Indianapolis Public Library on Sept. 5. Every teacher shared stories about their challenges and triumphs in Circle City classrooms.

Pierce’s story is a letter she wrote to her second and third grade students at the School for Community Learning, a private school in Indianapolis. In it, she recounts how they came together as a class and as a community to save some of the state’s oldest trees.

Check out the video below to hear Pierce’s story.

You can find more stories from educators, students and parents here.