Narrative: I Went From Prison to Professor

14 Writing a Personal Paragraph based on “Prison to Professor”

Now that you have studied “I Went from Prison to Professor” by Dr. Stanley Andrisse, you are ready to write your own paragraph about yourself.

Writing about You

Recently, you read the article “I Went from Prison to Professor” by Dr. Stanley Andrisse. This article combines two forms of writing:

  • It’s an argument because Dr. Andrisse uses evidence to support his thesis statement: “People’s prior convictions should not be held against them in their pursuit of higher learning.”
  • It’s a narrative (personal) essay because Dr. Andrisse shares his personal journey that took him from prison to professor.

In the personal (narrative) sections of the article,  Dr. Andrisse describes the obstacles (difficulties) he had to overcome before he was accepted into a medical program. Many people didn’t think he was smart enough or good enough to go to college.  In addition, he had to change his own behavior.

Your Assignment

For this assignment, you will write a personal paragraph, meaning that you will write a paragraph about you, and you’ll use “I,” as Dr. Andrisse did.

In the paragraph, please describe a time in your life when:

  • You had something important to say but people didn’t listen to you OR
  • You had something important to say but people didn’t take you seriously OR
  • You had to overcome difficulties to achieve a goal.  The goal can be going to college, joining a sports team, getting a job, or anything else that matters to you but was difficult to achieve.

Purpose:  This assignment will give you the opportunity to

  • Share your personal story
  • Learn that your personal story can be a source of college writing,
  • Learn that someone else’s story can inspire you to write your own
  • Practice writing strong sentences that flow in a logical order,
  • Practice using new vocabulary
  • Practice completing each phase of the writing process: planning, drafting, revising, and producing a final paragraph.

Audience: The audience for your paragraph will be your professor and maybe your peers, if your professor asks you to review each other’s work.

Skills. This assignment is an opportunity for you to practice the following skills:

  • Careful reading
  • Planning
  • Drafting
  • Revising
  • Producing a final paragraph

Advice.  Please follow the suggestions below in your story:

  • Use at least five of the following words:


Application Bachelors Degree Barriers Bottom Line Business College Degree
Experience Graduate Program Hidden Talent High School Diploma Income Mentor
Opportunities Organization Potential Pursuit Obstacle Train
Environment Fast-paced Reliable Be invited Be required Education
Be encouraged Be disappointed Be discouraged Be determined Be allowed Challenge
  • Make sure all the verbs in your story are consistent.
  • Use at least three adjective clauses in the paragraph.
  • Add some dialog. Be sure to use correct punctuation with direct speech.

Other Requirements

Format – MLA formatting (double-spaced, 12-pt. font, 1” margins)

Length – 200 words


  • Complete the planning sheet below.
  • Bring a draft of your paragraph to class for peer review. Begin to revise your draft in class.
  • Finish revising your draft and post your final paragraph on Canvas.

Planning Sheet

Answering the following questions before you draft your paragraph will help you (1) stay focused on the question, (2)  include important information that your audience needs to know, (3) remember the important details about your experience, and (4) write a strong draft.


What personal experience will you write about? In other words, what goal were you trying to achieve or what message were you trying to deliver?


How old were you at the time of this experience and where did you live?


What people (family members, friends teachers, co-workers), places (job, school, home, or other places), or organizations (businesses, clubs, sports teams, religious groups)  were involved in this experience?


What obstacles (challenges) got in your way?  The obstacles can be people, time, money, lack of experience, lack of confidence, lack of information, or anything else that made it hard to achieve your goal.


How does your story end?  You know how Dr. Andrisse’s story ends: he goes from prison to professor.  Now it’s time to share your ending. Whatever that ending is, it matters. Did the people involved in your story eventually listen to your idea and take it seriously, or are you still trying to get their attention?  Did you overcome a challenge or are you still working on it?   What did your experience teach you?


Look at your answers to the previous four questions.  Do you think the experience you chose is a good choice for this assignment?  (See the bullet points under “Description of Assignment” on page 1.) Please explain why or why not.


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