“Practice the art of attention and listening.” Phil Cousineau
Sometimes, I am the recipient of incredible opportunities. Visiting The Other Side Academy in Salt Lake City, Utah, is one of those. TOSA has an innovative and visionary approach to working with men and women “who have hit rock bottom…who now want to learn a better way to live. The Other Side Academy is available for these men and women pre- and post- sentencing and those within the jails and prisons within the state of Utah as well as those convicts, substance abusers, homeless and others who walk in off the street.”
Students share rooms ‘dorm style,’ live in community, are provided working jobs (The Other Side Academy Movers, Thrift Store, Food Truck, as well as jobs within the community). They are provided 3 meals a day, expected to do chores within the house, do their own laundry, learn skills such as: food service, community development, yard work etc. The Other Side Academy is not funded by the government, does not accept insurance and is free of charge to their students. They are quickly on their way to becoming self-sustaining. Students, once they are accepted and choose to live and work in this community, have a 2 year commitment.
Anyone can apply. The bench, in the front entrance of the office, is open all the time for anyone who has realized this is the place they need to be. In-mates may write a letter to The Other Side Academy, and staff from the school will interview them in prison.
It was an honor to visit and tour, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018. Our tour was facilitated by one of the founders of TOSA, a staff member and 2 students. It was humbling to hear the students and staff personal stories as to what lead them here, why they are passionate about what they do and how they desire to continue to grow and share the transformational impact the school and program has made in their lives.
There are 12 core values within TOSA, that are displayed in the office, expanded upon via posters throughout the main house and practiced within community by the students.
You alone can do it, but you can’t do it alone.
Make and keep promises.
Self-reliance. There is no free lunch.
Act as if.
Each one teach one.
We are faith friendly.
Pride in work.
Through these values, a commitment to honest accountability, evening group activities and authentically desiring change in their own lives, these practices become an integral way of life.
I was challenged about some of my preconceived judgments and attitudes toward addicts, the homeless and felons. The students answered my questions with honesty, humility and gratitude. In turn, I am asked to continue my journey of personal self discovery, awareness, and commitment to living with integrity, humility and gratitude.
“Every time you leave home, another road takes you into a world you were never in. New strangers on other paths await…May you travel in an awakened way, gathered wisely into your inner ground; that you may not waste the invitations which wait along the way to transform you.” John O’Donahue
“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” Maya Angelou
Please click on the link if you’d like to learn more and/or give financially to The Other Side Academy. As of today they are at maximum capacity with 80 students and are expanding into the community via: renovating a building for a larger dining and kitchen area, graduate apartments and hoping to purchase another apartment building for their future mission and goals. They are in conversation with Denver and San Diego in hopes of opening TOSA in these two cities; thereby serving more students.