Cole Pirano ‘26
Feb 2, 2024
The senior class has been hard at work in their Springboard senior capstone classes, preparing for the Capstone Expo in May. Kevin Malo '24 is using his Open Topic project to make a difference with the formerly incarcerated. Inspired by his East Jersey upbringing, he chose to pursue a project involving drug-related convictions. In his home country of Ecuador, crime and drug addiction are very present and that fact has fueled his interest in the US prison system.
Malo began to explore the broader system of drug-related convictions, until a few weeks ago when he encountered Gatekeepers, an organization focused on the re-entry of the incarcerated to mainstream life.
Based in Hagerstown, the home to the Maryland Correctional Institute, Gatekeepers helps ex-convicts by finding them work, paying their rent, and counseling them for as long as they desire. These measures helped the formerly incarcerated persuaded Malo to focus his project on the re-entry system for ex-convicts. Malo's beliefs on allowing ex-convicts to re-enter society are evident in his words: "It is crucial that we…give those who have made past mistakes and learned from them a second chance."
With his community in mind, he attended two Gatekeepers "Resource Club" meetings with Kaori Graham-Myrie '24 and Department Head of Interdisciplinary Programs JD Bennett. Malo has been working with the leadership of Bill Gaertner, a founder and executive director of Gatekeepers, who even called Malo up to speak about his project and how he hopes it can help everyone at the meeting. Graham-Myrie marveled at the experience of seeing the Gatekeepers in action, and he expressed gratitude for the opportunity to be welcomed into the sessions.
Spending time at Gatekeepers has been nothing short of impactful; Malo stated, "I have heard incredible stories from former inmates who are turning their lives around. Every session is nothing short of inspirational." Malo observed that most people don't know about re-entry programs like Gatekeepers, even though the prison is only a short car ride away. For this reason, he wants to raise awareness about re-entry programs because people should know about the organizations helping people in their communities.
His message that "we must tell those uncomfortable stories" is embodied in his work. Currently, Malo is building a website to raise awareness of re-entry programs and their fantastic work. His work will also raise money for three different organizations that help inmates reintegrate into society.
Malo has no intention of letting his project end after his graduation and hopes that a younger student will continue his work after he graduates.
Bennett, Director of the Springboard program, agrees: "I am hopeful that Kevin can inspire Mercersburg to invest time and resources in Gatekeepers in the same way we've lifted My Neighbor's Bounty." Although Malo has found purpose in this work, his project is much larger than he is. It has unlimited potential to help some of the most vulnerable members of our society return to their communities and make valuable personal contributions.