The Rising Hope Program in Ministry and Human Services is a post-secondary course of study designed to prepare people in correctional facilities for ministry or work in the helping professions while incarcerated and after release.
Rising Hope, Inc. provides college-level courses to people incarcerated in New York State correctional facilities. These currently include Sing Sing, Fishkill, and Woodbourne Correctional Facilities. These courses are taught by volunteers, often distinguished in their fields, who freely give their time and expertise to help the incarcerated find a path to living a positive life through education and service. The courses are offered without cost to the students.
The program is open to incarcerated individuals of any faith tradition who wish to grow intellectually and spiritually and serve others’ needs. The curriculum studies Christianity from a scholarly perspective. We do not engage in proselytizing. All faith traditions are treated with respect. Students of any or no faith tradition are welcome to participate in this program.
Successful completion of Rising Hope is challenging. Comprised of two semesters, each fifteen weeks in length, with classes five evenings per week, this program asks a lot of each student. Receiving the certificate at our Awards Ceremony brings with it a great sense of accomplishment and new ideas of what good things the future may bring.
- Provide incarcerated individuals with the equivalent of 20-33 credit hours of post-secondary education. Provide students with learning skills that will enhance their ability to earn academic degrees before and after release.
- Further the spiritual development of our students within their chosen faith tradition.
- Explore religions and religious practices from an academic, non-evangelistic perspective.
- Examine the divine call to personal transformation and service.
- Help students examine their lives in light of their own religious tradition.
- Create a community of learners who will encourage and support one another throughout the program and beyond. Encourage students to promote fellowship and peacemaking while incarcerated and after release.
The Program Focuses on:
- Achieving academic excellence
- Developing a richer spiritual life
- Encouraging personal responsibility and integrity
- Fostering community spirit among program participants
- Redefining one’s role as a positive force in the community and society
- The practice of ministry and Human Services
- Peacemaking as a community-building tool
- Respect for all faith traditions
- Developing leadership skills
Rising Hope, Inc. Mission Statement:
Rising Hope, Inc., provides educational programs for people in correctional facilities in order to awaken them to their innate potential to learn and grow intellectually, psychologically, spiritually, morally, socially, and vocationally, and to equip them to work effectively for the benefit of themselves, their families and others wherever their lives may take them.
Principles of Implementation
In pursuit of this mission:
- We will, because our program has been developed with a focus on Christian thought, retain that general focus. Nonetheless, we treat this subject matter academically, with respect for other religions, without proselytizing, and inviting each person to assess the material in light of his or her own perspective and faith orientation.
- We welcome, without regard to religious affiliation or belief, the participation at all levels of all who join our effort—as students, teachers, volunteers, board members, etc.
- We are committed to integrity, openness, honesty, and sincerity in all our actions.
- We choose to remain an all-volunteer organization in order to focus our energy on running our program rather than fundraising, and to maximize our cost-effectiveness. We thus avoid the expenses and fundraising burden that having paid employees requires.
Rising Hope, Inc. admits students of all races, colors, national and ethnic origins, religions, ages, genders, and sexual orientation to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded and made available to students of the program. It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, ethnicity, religion, age, gender, or sexual orientation in the administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, acceptance of volunteers or any other administered programs.
Rising Hope had its beginnings in 1995 when George “Bill” Webber, President of New York Theological Seminary saw the need for post secondary education in correctional facilities. With the help of incarcerated individuals who had received their Masters in Theological Studies while at Sing Sing, Dr. Webber created the Certificate in Ministry and Human Services program. He enlisted the able assistance of Sr. Marian Bohan, PhD, a member of the Ursuline order, who served as Academic Coordinator for several years. Still referred to by some as the CMHS program, the name was changed to Rising Hope when it was incorporated in 2003 and achieved 501 (c3) status. The courses offered are modeled in part on a seminary curriculum but on an undergraduate level. Many other courses have been added over the years.
The Certificate Program in Ministry and Human Services (now the Rising Hope Program in Ministry and Human Services) was created as a result of the 1994 elimination of PELL and TAP grants. Since colleges had already been in the correctional facilities, there were educated incarcerated individuals who knew the “true value of education” most especially for incarcerated students which they likened to “a life raft in a shark infested ocean” and “a blood transfusion to a patient on an operating table.” (1) A few of these incarcerated individuals with bachelor’s degrees had been able to take part in the above-mentioned Master’s Degree in Professional Studies (MPS) offered by New York Theological Seminary with private funding. (now in its 33rd year of existence)
After Pell grants were withdrawn for incarcerated students, correctional facilities correctly anticipated a huge pullout of participating colleges, which they feared might lead to “chaos.” They asked Dr. George (Bill) Webber, former president of NYTS, one of the founders of the NYTS program at Sing Sing, and Dr. Marian Bohen, an Ursuline nun and professor in the same program , to come up with an educational plan to help replace the loss of participating colleges. They in turn turned to the current master’s degree class and former grads of the NYTS program for their input.
The Certificate Program in Ministry and Human Services (now the Rising Hope Program in Ministry and Human Services) was the result of this synergy of correctional facility administrators, educators and incarcerated graduates of NTYS. It took its name from a similarly named program at NYTS for laymen who want to provide service ministry or do faith-based community work. The curriculum mirrored the NYTS master’s degree curriculum in a number of ways and thus could be facilitated by incarcerated NYTS grads along with qualified volunteer instructors (clergy and others) . The program allowed post-secondary education to continue at Sing Sing and eventually spread to six other correctional facilities in the State of New York. (now in its 20th year) Records and transcripts were kept, syllabi kept on file, and academic standards were high. The program is currently administered by Rising Hope, Inc – a not for profit educational organization, and as of 2012, the program has had an articulation agreement with Nyack College (Nyack, NY) which allows students to receive credit for Rising Hope coursework toward a degree at Nyack College.