SPECIAL REPORT: A look at how Colt Lundy is trying to give back
It's a local crime that drew national attention, young boys sent to prison for killing a man.
Colt Lundy was just 15 when he was sentenced for killing his stepfather, Phil Danner.
He was one of the youngest people in Indiana history to be sentenced as an adult.
Since then, Lundy has been working hard to turn his life around. He’s also trying to give back.
Now 22, he's working with a teacher in Norway.
It was a chance connection that started with Marianne Ruud's students writing to Lundy.
What started as a single class project has turned into an integral part of her curriculum.
"We came across this film, ‘Young Kids, Hard Time,’” Ruud said.
Lundy was featured prominently in that documentary.
“The kids all said, ‘Can we write to him? Can we write to them?’” said Ruud.
In Norway, students need to be able to speak and write in English to graduate.
After watching the documentary, Ruud's students wanted to do more than just write a paper to practice, they wrote more than 100 letters to Lundy and his cellmate.
“That's when I first realized how big of an impact our circumstances and our stories had,” said Lundy.
Ruud says she never expected Lundy to write back, but he did.
“Just sat in the room for days and would just write and write and write. Make food. Write. Make food, write,” said Lundy.
Ruud soon received 400 pages of handwritten letters.
Lundy had to work nearly 40 hours to pay for the stamps, which cost $10.
Ruud says a curriculum developed naturally around the letters.
"When these letters came back, they just wanted to write back again,” said Ruud.
Ruud says writing back and forth with Lundy has helped students practice descriptive and argumentative writing.
She says her students’ grades have improved by leaps and bounds.
"They want to learn. They want to do this. You don't have to tell them. It's not in a book. It's not a worksheet. It's something they really want to do and they talk about it all the time and they do all these projects on the side that they start themselves,” said Ruud.
In his letters, Lundy told the students about snacks he would make with food from the mess hall. The students took those recipes and turned them into signature dishes at the school cafeteria.
“They're everything from recycled soups where you use dumpster food to make the soups, or these little pizzas that they've created and added maybe a little Norwegian flair, with some salmon or something on it,” said Ruud.
One of the students' more memorable projects was setting Lundy's poetry to music.
"I thought it was just going to be like a little end-class project. Not a very big deal. But then, they actually started making an album and I got to hear some of it. I was like 'wow they really put some time and effort into this. It sounds good,” said Lundy.
Ruud says her students grew to care for Lundy. He in turn, became a mentor to them.
“Some, even at that young of an age, tried to commit suicide or were depressed or were dealing with family issues and they could relate to me because of some tragedy,” said Lundy.
“Because he's able to express it in words. He's really good at putting the emotions and the feelings in words. So that when kids read his letters they feel better,” said Ruud.
Ruud says Lundy is also learning from the students. She says he asks what type of music the kids listen to and what kinds of clothes they wear.
"Those are the kinds of things that he's missing out on while he's in prison,” said Ruud.
Ruud says she hopes writing with her students helps him learn a more important lesson, how to connect with people his own age.
“I don't know how old the inmates are around him that he surrounds himself with in there. I don't know if there's a lot of youth in there with him or if he's with older people. He has to entrust himself in people he feels have his best interest at heart, people who are professional, people who really do care about him,” said Ruud.
Clearly, Lundy has found someone who cares about him in Ruud. Since they met, she's traveled twice from Norway to visit him.
"It was just refreshing to get that intelligent conversation. We were just talking about the future and the possibilities," said Lundy.
Ruud wants to make sure Lundy's future is bright. She buys him books to help in his studies and hasn't held back in letting him talk to student, despite his criminal past.
“She's just, she recognizes that my genuine interest in wanting to help and wanting to be a part of something that's greater,” said Lundy.
He says that's more valuable than any book.
"That helps keep my sanity,” said Lundy.
Ruud hopes Lundy's work with her students and on his own will help him toward a second chance.
“I really don't know how much longer you can keep a young person behind bars who already is showing these positive signs of being able to assimilate into society, to immerse into society,” said Ruud.
She says a second chance for Lundy would be worth the risk.
"I think Colt is one of those very few who will surprise us all and do great things. I really do, because he has this drive. He has this strength,” said Ruud.
Lundy's second chance may be coming up. He was just transferred to a lower security facility.
He says, with good behavior and enough apprenticeship hours, he could be out on work release within a year.
For the full report on the man Colt Lundy has become in prison, read part one of this special report.