Gregory Donatello became interested in the Education Justice Project after noticing that students in EJP classrooms typically placed their desks in large circles instead of rows. Just as mystifying, the instructors sat with them in the circles instead of lecturing from the front of the room. He’d never seen that sort of arrangement before. Greg had no interest in going back to school, but registered for an EJP course to satisfy his curiosity. Soon, he declared himself hooked.
Since then, Greg has enrolled in three more University of Illinois classes and performed in the Shakespeare-based Our Play,. His portrayals of Shylock (The Merchant of Venice) and Cassius (Julius Cesar) were among the highlights of the production. Thephoto below shows Greg preparing to take the stage.
Greg’s theatrical talents may not be surprising, given his artistic background, which includes guitar and graphic design. He spends much of his Saturdays doing portraiture and playing in a band at the correctional center. He also enjoys reading political science and “anything to do with American history.” Among his favorite authors are Shelby Foote—especially his Civil War series—and Bruce Chatwin.
Politics are another passion of Greg’s, and he’s currently reading a book about brokerage politics. “I’m probably a moderate conservative,” he explains. “I believe in Jeffersonian democracy and a strict interpretation of the Constitution.”
Greg originally comes from Highland Park, Illinois, where his parents still live. He keeps in touch, but discourages frequent visits because the farewells tear him up. “After seeing my mother and father get up and leave the table [in the visiting room], I’m a wreck.”
After twelve years in prison, he’s learned to take things a day at a time. “I’m working on that,” he says. “I’m trying to stay focused every day.”
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