The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Past hardships inspire student to aim higher and live life to the fullest
Sociology student Stuart “Andy” Winn has a clear vision for his future. Emma Foley // Photo Editor // [email protected]

JD Wooten | Guest Writer | [email protected]

Crisply pressed button-up shirt, fresh dark jeans, polished boots, topped off with a classic Movado Museum watch wrapped around the wrist of his tattoo-free arms. The sharp, educated appearance shows no trace of the past that has helped mold him into the scholar he is today.

Stuart “Andy” Winn, 37, is a student in his last semester at City College. Winn has been waiting to hear all semester if his application to the University of California, Berkeley, was approved for transfer. Berkeley is his dream university. Winn has a good chance. He holds a 3.7 transfer GPA and is completing his Associates of Arts degree in sociology.

Winn has been accepted into his backup school, University of California, Los Angeles. But he is waiting to hear from Berkeley. A transfer specialist has told him that he has a 90 percent chance of being accepted. There, he plans to earn his Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology. After Berkeley, Winn would like to pursue his master’s in business administration at Stanford through a transfer program established between the schools.

Despite setting forth this plan, Winn has not always had such a clear vision of the road he was heading on.

“The story of my life isn’t about my past,” Winn says. “It’s more about what I’ve overcome, where I am at, and where I am going.”

About 10 years ago, Winn says his life was plagued with severe drug abuse, multiple incarcerations, and lacked the vision it has today. During the lowest point of his life, Winn says he resembled a person who is the complete opposite of who he is today.

He says he suffered from addiction to drugs that included methamphetamine and cocaine. This addiction, Winn says, led to charges against him that included possession, under the influence of narcotics, grand theft auto and involuntary manslaughter.

Obstacles of this magnitude often trap people and restrain them from a future by limiting their options, but Winn used these experiences to propel himself forward to a future based on knowledge.

It was during his last stay at Soledad State prison when Winn was hit with a realization. He was confined to a 6-by-8- foot cell, accompanied by escalating anxiety and given a slim window to peer out into a world that he was excluded from for 23, sometimes 24 hours, a day.

“The downfalls of my past helped me reach my full potential,” says Winn. “Now passion seeps from me. People can pick that up just by talking with me.”

Passion is the quintessential term to portray the new-found Winn, especially concerning his views on his education. He is often found on campus taking full advantage of the opportunities college offers. In his classrooms, he catches professors’ attention with his enthusiasm and critical thinking.

“He approaches education as the key to building a better world around him,” says City College history professor Maury Wiseman of Winn.

Wiseman was Winn’s professor and grew fond of having Winn in his classroom. During this period, Winn disclosed his past to his professor.
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“It surprises me that anybody can overcome the challenges he’s confronted, but he also proves that second chances matter,” says Wiseman.

Wiseman understands the hurdles that are ahead in Winn’s future, but believes Winn is “using the opportunities obtainable through education to strengthen himself and benefi t others.”

Wiseman isn’t the only faculty member on campus who has witnessed Winn’s drive to pursue education.

Angela Block, chairwoman of the City College sociology department, recalls working with Winn during a semester when he was not feeling challenged enough by a class. Winn went to Block’s offi ce and requested additional work so he could fully grasp the content of the subject matter.

“His enthusiasm really struck me because he was doing very well in the class that he was in,” says Block. “He was actually looking for more information and more education on the subject matter.”

Block directed Winn to a few online resources that complemented his studies that he used throughout the semester. She says she was not aware of Winn’s past, but was impressed by how driven he is as a student. Through the encounters with Winn, Block isn’t surprised that Winn would pursue a spot at UC Berkeley.

“It wouldn’t surprise me given his drive,” says Block. “That’s something that I can see in Andy. That is something he has always had.”

And drive is exactly what pushes Winn, day in and day out.

He admits that even though he is sober, addiction is a battle that does not end. Because of this he still attends weekly A.A. meetings, but that doesn’t stop him from enjoying life with a new perspective. On the weekends he is often found fishing, hiking with his two dogs, and capturing it all through photography.

“I really enjoy the simple things now,” says Winn, “pretty much anything that allows me to enjoy the freedoms I once took for granted.”

After finishing his MBA, Winn would ultimately like to create a nonprofi t organization that specializes in restoring prisoner rights and finding ways for them to adjust to the outside world after incarceration. One of the goals for his nonprofit would be to help former convicts find legitimate work to help them assimilate back into society.

“Convicts are the most oppressed group out there,” says Winn. “They aren’t given many opportunities to succeed once they are released. There are actually far more opportunities for them to fail and dig themselves deeper.”

Winn found out last week that he didn’t get into Berkeley. He’s leaning toward attending UCLA in the fall, his back-up school. Given his passionate pursuit of education, Winn says he is determined to keep looking forward.

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