Letter to the Editor: I’ve met a real-life superhero through Scholars Serving Time

Hi, my name is Mika Myron Keali Dalbec and I am currently incarcerated at the Minnesota Correctional Facility in Faribault. Two years ago, when I first entered the Scholars Serving Time program through Minnesota State University, Mankato, let me be the first to say: I was intimidated. On one hand, I knew I was smart. On the other hand, I still battled with the thoughts of whether or not I was ready to turn my life around. All it took was one meeting with Dr. Vicki Hunter, and the rest is history.

I can officially say I’ve met a real-life superhero. Well, many superheroes for that matter. Every single professor brought a degree of excellence and beauty that only made me want to learn even more. Even when I disagreed with certain philosophies or modes of learning, I was still treated like I’m a student. Most of all, I was treated like a human who was loved.

To the outside world. I was considered a menace. Actually, let me rephrase that, I was a menace. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve harmed many innocent people. I could go down and list all the childhood traumas and the ways in which the system let me down, yada, yada, yada…we all have a story. But it came down to choices and personal agency.

Through MNSU, I’ve learned that there are other choices than the ones I’ve been taught. I’ve learned that my personal agency is in my hands and that while systems of oppression will always exist, we as a community have the collective power to change that. We have the collective power to make a difference and it starts with: communication.

As a December 2022 graduate, this is by far one of my most proud accomplishments. I’ve gained new family and camaraderie among my fellow incarcerated persons. I’ve been humbled and woken up. I now have something to believe in. 

And to the women of the federal facility in Waseca: We are all rooting for you because we know how life changing it is! Congratulations on pursuing a higher education!

To the men I’ve had the pleasure of graduating with: We did it! All that hard work has now paid off. Some of you are going home and some of you are still here with me. Let’s keep going and pursue our bachelor’s degrees.

To the professors: A thank you could never describe how much impact and joy we’ve had. You all took time out of your days and your lives to come to prison. Not many people can say they’ve done that by choice and on purpose and on a weekly basis. But most of all, you’ve changed a lot of lives for the better. We all make the promise to show our thanks by being better brothers and sisters, better men and women, but mostly, better humans in general.

The one thing that I can honestly say I’m glad I had the opportunity to walk away with: hope.

​​Header photo: Mika Myron Keali Dalbec (above) considers Dr. Vicki Hunter a super-hero for her work at the Minnesota Correctional Facility with the Scholars Serving Time program. (Photo courtesy of Rachael Hanel)

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