Sentenced to jail a decade ago, Terrell Blount could not have imagined the success and inspiration he would become. Last May, against incredible odds, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communication.
When Blount arrived at the prison to begin his five-year sentence on a burglary charge, he was 18 years old and had graduated from high school, but had never liked school, and thought he’d never see a classroom again.
“During the course of high school, not once did I fathom the possibility of ever attending college,” said Blount. “All I knew was that my family was poor, and I assumed that because of that, I couldn't afford it.”
Blount’s thoughts about education took a 180-degree turn when he discovered he could take courses while at the Mountainview Youth Correctional Facility in Annandale N.J.
“While incarcerated, I knew that I had one of two choices: do nothing with myself, eventually allowing my conviction to haunt me for the rest of my life,” Blount recalled. “Or I take college courses while on the inside and continue upon release, and have some type of control over my destiny. I chose the latter.”
Over time he became a very successful student, and that’s when he decided to apply to Rutgers. With help from the Mountainview Project (started by a Rutgers professor), Blount landed on the Rutgers-New Brunswick campus. He majored in communication because he had, he says, “the desire to appropriately and effectively dissect messages, as a means to assist and understand others.”
Blount is shaping a career that will enable him to help others avoid his fate. He said, “I plan to communicate with and mentor at-risk youth who are headed down the same road I once traveled (to prison), and attempt to prevent it all together. The school-to-prison pipeline is very real — the friendships you form, your access to money and family support all weigh in heavily on the direction you go in as a 17- or 18-year-old fresh out of high school, and could very well be the difference between a college career or a prison bid. I want to be the outlet students can utilize and learn from that ultimately steers them down the correct path.”