Sara Falls began her work with PCAP her sophomore year after taking founder Buzz Alexander’s Theory and Social Changes class in 1996-1997. With a BA in English and a minor in sociology, she graduated from the University of Michigan in 2000 and has since taught in Detroit and currently in California.
Falls said her career choices and the decision of becoming a teacher had a lot to do with Buzz. “Buzz was trying to get us to critique the prison industrial complex from a position as a societal structure. He was intertwining conversations about prisons with schools and this term is now more popularly known as the school to prison pipeline, but at the time it was not very talked about”, Falls said. “Out of Buzz’s teachings came a really profound desire for me to teach.”
She has taught both middle and high school students, specifically working at schools with majority low income students. "I had seen so many issues within the school systems I worked in, the systematic disadvantages the kids in these schools were experiencing and the sense of anger many of the kids had because of this," she said. "I knew there were so many things structurally that I felt needed to be challenged.”
Falls later was hired to run a program for middle schoolers who were expelled from their regular public schools for many unfair reasons or life circumstances. “I was working really closely with parole officers and a lot of these kids were in and out of Juvy. I was the gatekeeper of whether some of these kids stayed in school or went to Juvy and I did not like that at all," she said. "It was very hard and I really struggled thinking about the idea of ‘what does it mean to be a teacher in the institution that I am working in.”
After leaving this job, Falls has been working at a different school in San Francisco, where she continues to teach high school english which was and continues to be her passion today.
While in PCAP
During her time with PCAP, Falls was a member of a few of Buzz Alexander’s classes which inspired her to further her passions of reform. At the time, PCAP was not organized as it is today, she said, it was just a group of people who came to Buzz’s classes and wanted to keep working in prisons.
“Even when Buzz went on sabbatical, those who were doing the work wanted to do more and support the workshops. We would constantly get together, have potlucks, do theater games, and talk about the workshops. It was through all of this that PCAP itself was “born,” she said.“ PCAP was one of the most impactful parts of my undergraduate experience.”
One of her favorite memories with PCAP was the retreat at the Blue Mountain, in the Adirondacks, with Buzz Alexander and his colleagues. “So much of PCAP was about the social connections I was making as well as the shift in my head about systems and politics and social structures. I realized this was my life’s work and I am connected with so many people because of this work, she said.
“The community that I built through PCAP has allowed me to make some of my best friends that 20 years later are still a huge part of my life. We are all still very connected and it feels like PCAP built my life. I feel very fortunate for that.”