ARC member Sean Wilson attended Beyond the Bench 2015, a statewide conference devoted to youth and families in the California court system. In this blog post, Sean shares his experiences at the conference, where he participated in a discussion with Founder Scott Budnick and Director of CDCR’s Division of Rehabilitative Programs Millicent Tidwell showcasing four selections from TEDx Ironwood State Prison.

Sean Wilson, ARC Member

Participating in the Beyond the Bench conference was the best first experience I’ve had in the free world since my release one month ago. Scott reminded me of how adventurous but righteous life could be as a free man.

Having a chance to reunite and collaborate with Millicent Tidwell, who is the Director of CDCR’s Division of Rehabilitative Programs, to talk about the TEDx Ironwood State Prison event we both participated in last year and her efforts towards rehabilitation in the system was an exceptional moment. Watching my TEDx talk never gets old because it is a reminder of who I was, and who supported me in becoming the man worthy of such an opportunity. The most gratifying part of the experience was that I was actually able to witness the source of my motivation and courage to participate in the TEDx event — juveniles and adolescents — and the positive impact it has on them in their current circumstances.

It was even more gratifying to personally witness Scott and Prophet Walker, another ARC member, speak so passionately on a panel about reforming the way we view the potential, power, and lives of juveniles. I learned that I have a choice very few have to be a part of the solution, to save juveniles from my experience by providing the answers and understanding so that they can pursue their dreams against all odds.

It is only through our stories that we connect with those who don’t understand us and are forced to place judgment. We can place openness and compassion upon their hearts and their judgment to open up doors to dreams. At Beyond the Bench, I realized the actual value and role I play in the long road to reforming perception and judgment. I accept the things I cannot change from my past but embrace the things I can do in the future