Interview with volunteer, Christa Hodapp

Volunteer Coordinator Hannah Zack interviewed volunteer Christa Hodapp on September 17, 2019.

Hannah: How did you first get involved with CPO?

Christa: I was interested in working with incarcerated people and I found CPO after a Google search.

Hannah: What is the most memorable moment or accomplishment of your volunteer experience?

Christa: We have a lot of good nights and there are lots of positive moments, so it is hard to choose just one. The men I work with are brave, thoughtful and courageous. There are two nights that come to mind.

The first was when I attended a prison-wide talent show that some of our HiSET participants invited me to. I had the opportunity to watch the students rap and perform original writings and poetry and it was all very inspiring – their work was extremely creative with a lot of depth. They all said they were pleased to see me, but I feel like they did me the real favor by letting me be part of it. Another important moment for me happened when a student I had worked with for a while found out he was being transferred. He came up to me to thank me for our time together, and he explained that when he was younger, he was never the best student.  However, everyone has a favorite teacher, and his was his second-grade teacher because she was nice and caring. He then told me that he now has two favorite teachers – including me. I was very touched and very honored.

Hannah: What would you tell a prospective volunteer about being a volunteer at CPO?

Christa: I would tell a prospective volunteer that becoming a CPO volunteer is one of the best opportunities I’ve had and the impact it has on me has been significant. I have a great time doing it. While there is a lot of work involved, such as preparing lessons prior to each session, I’ve never regretted doing the work or putting in the time.  Our program provided the unique opportunity to build a curriculum around the students’ needs and interests, as well as the interests and strengths of the volunteers. Our program provides the opportunity for volunteers to use their talents while contributing to filling the needs of a population that very much wants and appreciates our assistance.

Hannah: Has volunteering impacted your life?

Christa: This opportunity has impacted my life greatly. Personally, it has exposed me to some great people with very diverse backgrounds; the students and I have similar interests and it reminds me of how complex people are. Professionally, I’ve been teaching at the college level since 2002 and it is possible to get burned out sometimes. This has been a learning experience and has re-upped my enthusiasm and commitment to teaching in a broad sense. I am also learning a lot while prepping new lessons and materials for our students.

Hannah: If you were to describe CPO to a colleague, what would you say?

I have a lot of positive things to say both about CPO as an organization, as well as the specific volunteer opportunities organized by CPO. I really like the orientation run by the staff prior to getting placed in a program. CPO shows an authentic commitment to social justice and ensures that volunteers are able to understand mass incarceration in a larger context – the individual versus the system and institution.

I love that there are a lot of volunteer options. I am always getting emails about volunteer openings for Kids Corner and gardening, etc. CPO is aware of all of the needs that fit in the context of the prison. They are constantly growing programming to meet the needs of the population. I really appreciate how sensitive and responsive CPO is to the diverse interests and needs of multiple institutions and populations.

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