Thanks again to TTEF for all their support. After a semester into the MBA program at Adams State University, I’ve already been able to see how social justice and social change can impact business practices. My first research paper, entitled “Work Release,” is about the nearly 700,000 men and women in the U.S. being released from prison every year and the challenges they face in finding employment. Ex-offenders and human resource managers all must deal with issues such as “Ban the Box” (eliminating discrimination on job applications), work opportunity tax credits, and growing support for prisoner reentry programs.
In terms of progress on my community-building activities, I remain the inmate college advisor within the prison. During the Fall semester I helped register and enroll over 200 inmates into the Community College of Rhode Island. I am a passionate advocate for prison educational opportunities.
In October I created “Real Voices From Behind the Fence,” a collection of inmate stories that was sent to a youth program at New Urban Arts. This community center in Providence mentors at-risk youth using accomplished local artist mentors. My goal is to further develop this experimental initiative using voices of the incarcerated.
Within the prison, since September, I became a classroom advisor for the Youth Nonviolence program. Sponsored by the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence, this program teaches nonviolent principles developed and practiced by Gandhi and King. The program focuses on inmates aged 18-26 years old. My goal is to become a certified nonviolence instructor.
In addition to the TTEF scholarship, I also received a Davis-Putter scholarship; it is one of the few scholarship programs that support incarcerated people. They seek out those leading and providing service for their communities, and clearly prison is no less a community than anywhere else. Combined, the two organizations allowed me to enroll in three classes in the MBA program.
The achievement for which I am most proud is raising and training “Rescue,” a service dog placed with a Boston Marathon bombing survivor. I raise and train these dogs for NEADS, a Massachusetts nonprofit. The Prison-Pup partnership between Rhode Island Department of Corrections and NEADS is the first of its kind to give back to victims of crimes. In November, Jessica Kensky and her husband Patrick visited me in prison to thank me for what they called the greatest gift since the tragic day of the bombing. This is a true example of social change: incarcerated people working to give back to the community.
My goal remains to complete the MBA in 3-4 years and eventually create a business that trains and employs former felons. It is my intention to re-apply for financial support and also continue seeking more opportunities from elsewhere. After six courses, I may even be eligible for an Adams State scholarship and also to complete the MBA online (with DOC permission).
I wish to thank everyone at TTEF, the founders, the Board, volunteers, and donors. It not only helps the scholars, it also provides a roadmap of possibilities for all of us. I will continue to work tirelessly for prison educational opportunities, juvenile justice reform, and every kind of prisoner reentry program.
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