In June, 8 of our mentored students received Boston University degrees, many with honors. Two Partakers students share valedictorian honors at MCI Framingham prison. The Department of Corrections (DOC) allowed Partakers mentors to attend graduation ceremonies. In more than one case, our mentors were the only individuals at the ceremony celebrating the graduate’s achievement.
As of the fall of 2013, Partakers volunteers support 49 prisoner students and there is a waiting list of students who have requested mentors. This marks an all-time high for program participants.
“When inmate/students apply to the Boston University Prison Education Program, they have already experienced a change within themselves. They are no longer willing to participate in the unhealthy prison culture. They have made the commitment to go to college and be a positive presence for their family and their community. This takes a tremendous amount of courage, commitment and determination. So when inmates/students apply to Partakers’ College Behind Bars, they are extending a hand with the hope that there will be a team to take their hand and say, “We believe in you. We are here to provide mentoring and friendship. We will not give up on you. “ – Maddie, a CBB graduate, now in a Master’s degree program and Northeastern University.
We have 37 mentoring teams from 16 congregations – several congregations have 2 to 7 mentoring teams – and teams from the secular organization SOAR. Our local college and seminarian mentoring teams have also expanded in number.
Partaker volunteers provide tremendous value through their donation of time and effort. Our 300 mentors spend an average of 10 hours per month supporting and visiting their student, thereby donating a total of 36,000 hours each year. If we ascribe an hourly value of $25, this represents an in kind donation of $900,000. Added to our budget of approximately $100,000, we provide over $1,000,000 of value in support of prison education.
We continue to expand our board of directors adding strategic capabilities. Two new members are Bill McGovern, a CPA and now our board Treasurer; and the Hon. Christy Harms (retired) who brings a wealth of experience as a former Judge for the Massachusetts Trial Court.
In December, we will launch a strategic review process that will lead to the setting of goals and objectives for the next several years. Two experience consultants will facilitate the process on a pro bono basis. Also on a pro bono basis, a Boston law will help us conduct a legal audit to make sure Partakers is in good legal health. As Partakers looks to increase the numbers of inmates we mentor, this legal audit will insure we have “our house in order.”
Partakers 2013 Annual Meeting, November 3
The Partakers Annual Meeting was very well attended. Our guest was Veronica Madden, Director of Education and Inmate Training, Department of Corrections. Her remarks were well received as she described future plans to assist inmates prepare to return to society by giving them access to marketable skills that can lead to employment and stabilization within the community.
Celebration and Fund-raiser
Friends, volunteers and supporters of Partakers gathered for a festive dinner last week at the home of volunteer mentor and his wife to celebrate and promote the work of College Behind Bars. Thanks to the generosity of all those who attended, we raised $11,000 and introduced Partakers to a larger circle of friends. These much-needed funds will help us continue our vital work and expand our mission of education to a larger population of student-prisoners.
We heard from two of our graduates, Keith and Maddi, who described the powerful impact their Partakers mentors had on their lives, helping them navigate their education journey and turn their lives in new directions. Keith is now a parish minister and Maddie is studying for a Masters degree in Public Health at Northeastern University. After hearing their stories, one guest commented, “It was almost impossible to have a dry eye or a closed pocketbook when they were finished”.