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### First-time Visitor from Northwestern University’s Prison Education Program Explores Campus

EVANSTON, Ill. (WLS) – Benard McKinley was unable to partake in the customary tradition of passing under the Northwestern University arch at the commencement of his academic journey and upon receiving his degree due to his incarceration.

Expressing his emotions, McKinley shared, “For so long I’ve desired or pictured this moment to actually be able to witness it and feel is definitely breathtaking. It’s been a long time. I just feel grateful.”

In November, McKinley graduated alongside 15 others from the first cohort of Northwestern’s Prison Education Program.

Reflecting on McKinley’s achievement, program director Jennifer Lackey remarked, “I’m incredibly proud of Bernard, I mean he was remarkable from the very beginning. Recidivism rates drop dramatically when individuals pursue higher education during their time in prison, and studies indicate that a higher level of education correlates with a lower recidivism rate.”

McKinley was only 16 years old when he received a 100-year prison sentence for a murder conviction. Over time, his sentence has been reduced. Apart from earning a bachelor’s degree, he has also taken the LSATs and submitted an application to Northwestern’s Law School with aspirations of becoming a civil rights lawyer. His goal extends to collaborating with a non-profit legal clinic to advocate for justice on behalf of others.

“I’m not wavering from that; that’s my purpose, my passion, and I know that’s where my power lay to help effect positive change for others,” he affirmed.

Looking ahead, McKinley foresees his release from transitional housing in the spring. In the interim, he will serve as a paralegal at the law school while awaiting a response regarding his law school application.

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