From the Nominator
This entry tells the story of student Kevin McCarthy and his long, dramatic, and ultimately triumphant journey to UC Berkeley, a school he could only dream about from inside the prison system, where he lived for 22 years—nine of them in solitary confinement. McCarthy makes for a fascinating profile, not only because he survived nine years in solitary, which is impossible for anyone to fathom, but because of the person he grew to become while incarcerated: a jailhouse lawyer who helped his fellow inmates when they were treated unjustly, a teacher for men behind bars who had academic interests like his, someone who dared to push against cruel and dangerous treatment by prison guards, and an unflagging soul who, despite being admitted to Berkeley, was forced to defer his enrollment three times. The story, by Gretchen Kell, director of special projects and outreach at UC Berkeley's Office of Communications and Public Affairs, also tells of the friendships that McCarthy developed with several people on his journey, in particular, Henry Tsai, a Berkeley admissions counselor who wrote to McCarthy for years, and encouraged him to believe in himself, and that he'd eventually get to Berkeley and belonged there, no matter how long the wait.
From the Judges
Compelling and well-written story. The story expertly moved from present to past to present, weaving in the university's role in his journey.