Katie makes a difference for inmates and at-risk youth.
By Colby Johnson
Amber Horn SP'13 had her pick of service-learning opportunities during "Psychology Engages the World," the first of two required seminars for St. Kate's psychology majors. She chose to work with drug dealers, sexual offenders and other criminals on the mend.
"My goal is to pursue a career in forensic psychology," says Horn, "so there was no way I was going to pass up this amazing opportunity to work with an inmate population and learn more about the criminal justice system."
Over the summer, she spent three to four hours each week at the Dakota County Sheriff's Office helping a group of pre-screened inmates — ranging from 19 to 75 years old — draft résumés for when they are released from jail. Earlier, Kelsey Knops SP'10, an Americorps Vista volunteer for Dakota County, had designed and formalized the service learning with St. Kate's.
"The experience was a little nerve-wracking at first," Horn admits. "But at the end of the day, it's so rewarding when inmates realize that somebody does care about them and wants to help them."
Horn also volunteered to write a grant — something else she had never done before — to fund an arts project for the sheriff's office. Horn attended a grant-writing seminar and created "Choices," a project for 12 inmates to develop skills in the visual arts. She also recruited art instructors and led a focus group with 42 inmates to learn about the types of art they were most interested in.
In spring 2012, Dakota County got the good news that it received the grant money to fund the project.
"I was shocked and thrilled," says Horn, who continued to work at the jail long after her class was over. Horn will share the inmates' artwork at youth centers throughout Dakota County. "We want to use their experiences and artistic reflections as a deterrent for youth who are at risk of becoming future offenders," she explains.