Over 60 people came to Donnelly in early April to hear the story of Curtis McCarty, an Oklahoma death row exoneree and anti-death penalty activist, who spent 19 years on death row before his exoneration by DNA evidence in 2007. The audience was visibly moved as McCarty shared his account of being wrongfully accused of murder. He shared the realities of life–and death–in high-security prisons; the importance of faith and family in coping with incarceration; and the freeing power of seeing the humanity in everyone.
Bill Scholl, from the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas’ Office for Social Justice, opened the evening in prayer and briefly provided background on the Catholic Church’s teachings about capital punishment. Ben Jones and Mike Fonkert, from the Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty, provided updates on capital punishment law at the state and national levels, and assisted McCarty with the question-and answer-session.
“Participate in your community, and do so positively,” McCarty reminded the audience. “Become a force not in your own lives, but in the lives of others, and make a difference.”
Tyrone Flowers, founder and president of Higher M-Pact, a non-profit organization that seeks to transform high-risk urban youth into tomorrow's leaders through long-term mentoring, spoke to approximately 30 Donnelly students during an early-April Power Hour.
Flowers, diagnosed with behavior problems and learning disorders as a youth, spent his early years in foster homes, detention centers, reform schools and state youth facilities. Then, after turning his life around in high school, Flowers was shot three times by a basketball teammate, just two weeks before graduation.
His injuries left him in a wheelchair with limited use of his body, but Flowers went on to defy the odds as first-generation college student who graduated from Penn Valley, then from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a bachelor's degree in sociology and a minor in psychology with academic honors, and finally, from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law with Juris Doctorate, where he also received the CALI Excellence for the Future Award for his work in 'Children & the Law.'
Flowers’ personal experiences and his careful study of the juvenile justice system inspired him to create Higher M-Pact. As often as possible, Flowers tell his story as a testament to the power of value of strong mentors, self-reliance, strong leadership and forgiveness.