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Eric Watkins

Eric Watkins is a highly accomplished scholar with a Master's Degree in Christian and Restorative Justice Ministry from North Park Theological Seminary, where he graduated with high honors. Eric is is the founder and director of H.E.A.L, a mentoring ministry that provides college scholarships and mentorship to youths from violence and mass incarceration impacted communities. In addition to his impressive academic and professional achievements, Eric is currently interning with the office of IL State Senator Rachel Ventura.

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ERIC WATKINS | DIAMONDS IN THE ROUGH

Diamonds in the rough. The greatest facets of our humanity sparkle when we learn from our past mistakes, make better decisions for the future, and encourage others to radiate the same light.

A child prodigy. I started high school at 11 years old. I graduated, matriculated into college and majored in business by age 15. I earned three certificates in business by 17. But while working to complete my business degree, I was wrongfully and unlawfully arrested for a murder that I did not commit. My arrest was based on a “theory of accountability,” in the murder of my stepfather. Based on police misconduct and abuse, my case was dismissed. Four years went by, no new cases. It was wrongfully reinstated and I was tried, solely as an accomplice, and sentenced to natural life. The shooter and his accomplices were all freed due to plea deals. And somehow, here I am with a natural life sentence, considered irredeemable.

But since then, over these 27 years, I completed my degree; I triple majored in American Jurisprudence, Transformative Justice, and Education, and earned a Bachelor's degree from Northeastern Illinois University. I went on to earn my Masters degree in Restorative Justice. And now I teach a workshop to help and inspire others for our community, to help heal our community. I also provide education to people impacted by violence and mass incarceration like myself.

Throughout my journey I’ve consistently seen that prayer is human beings' highest form of education and communication. It is the vehicle that moves our spirits and our souls past the dusty clay of our material world to connect with God. It acknowledges that life and lives have purpose, and aren’t aimless products of non-intelligent, haphazard events. We are wonderfully made, we are wonderfully created by an awesome Creator. Diamonds in the rough.

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