Giving back to communities…
Our alumni have gone on to lead important roles in their communities. Here are some of their stories:
Charles Moore: “At Woodbourne, I was an instructor and teaching assistant for Rising Hope. I also served as Inside Coordinator. At RTA (Rehabilitation Through the Arts), I am currently the Director of Operations. I assist with coordinating the distance learning we are providing to our participants during COVID. I also keep in contact with all our alumni and run the camera at my church for live stream.”
Kenyatta Hughes currently works for Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison and is a practicing musician in New York City. Just a few hours after being released, Kenyata walked onto the stage at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Room to perform his first concert as a free man.
Read the story: Raise All Voices | Carnegie Hall
Watch the video:
Hunter: “I am a NYC Electrician with a career that spans 40 years (due to an early start). Right now I maintain and build boiler controls. This picture of my son and I working in a 70 story power room. Also, this is how summer leisure time is spent fishing. My cousin and I rehabilitated this boat in the beginning of COVID-19”
Patrick Griffen: “I am forever grateful to the Rising Hope family that gave me HOPE and helped me RISE above water when I was sinking deep into misery. I work in Brooklyn, I am really a porter but I am working toward becoming a real super. I try to learn and carry out my responsibilities but I occasionally get help from people who are just being kind to me. I do alot of cleaning and throwing out the garbage for buildings that are really beautiful. I had to find work because I needed to pay my rent and contribute to the household. I am grateful for this opportunity. I am not perfect, but I know I only want what’s best for family, friends and even strangers. This is something I never had in my heart. I feel God is really good for helping me gradually change.”
Jermaine Archer currently works for the Legal Aid Society as a Sentence Mitigation Specialist and is in the process of starting Law School. Watch Jermaine on a TED Talk:
Mr. K.: “I am a member of Local 79 is a mason tender, working with brick layers at the Red Hook projects. I have previously worked on high rise buildings in Manhattan.”
J.S.: “I sell batteries, tires, and some mechanical work, door dash part time as well, also trying to register for HVAC…”
Ali Kelley: “I’m working on a clothing line which is called “CONTRABAND” . I am also working on a Comic book called “POP OFF” about me and a child hood friend telling stories. These stories cover from the womb to prison, while in prison, when you get released and while home. I’m also working on a one man show starring me as a man using a metro card for the first time heading to parole. I’m involved in a Shakespeare project as well.”
Mr. C. became manager of a CVS Pharmacy after his release.
Jibaro: “I’m going to a church in Mt. Vernon, NY. I m studying theology with my pastor to become a prison minister”
Rasheed Hart: “I have been employed with Center for Court Innovation since 2016. My title there is Job developer and group leader. I was also general manager of NYC barbershop museum for 2 years. On the news a lot. I help launch it. I am also enrolled in CUNY studying community organization and Leadership.”
Mr. B.: “When I left prison I lived for awhile with my pastor. I worked in the hospital with terminally ill children. I had a child die in my arms and felt God was calling me to serve Him. I have been a Christian, then became Muslim and have returned now to Christianity. I am a student at Drew Theological Seminary where I have completed three years with one year remaining. I plan to become a United Methodist pastor.”
Robert K. Wright is a research assistant at the Center for Justice at Columbia University, where he is pursuing a master’s degree in education. He speaks at social justice events, helps develop programs for justice-impacted people, mentors undergraduates, and contributes to articles examining the effects of trauma and punitive practices on urban communities.
Read some of his writings: Robert K. Wright | The Marshall Project
Mr. C.: “I have a title of Industrial Hygienist. Inspector and monitor of Hazardous materials, such as Asbestos, Lead, etc.”
Louis Myles: “I have been working at Usecology, a hazard company for over two years making over 60k yearly and still taking classes at NYU online.”
Tamir: “The program I’m employed by is the Osborne Association. I’ve been with Osborne 6 years and working in several capacities. Currently I work as a Care Manager and assist the elderly population 50 years and older with transitioning from prison to the community. My work specifically involves facilitating groups, counseling, case management, employment, housing just to name a few. Other than that I also stay busy with trying to be the best Dad I can for my 7 year old daughter who is attending remote school during the day. Luckily I too work remotely as a result of COVID.”
Bishop: “I’m doing well at work. I’m a construction Ironworker in the city.”
Julio Medina is an Exodus Transitional Community director
Sean Pica: “I think about my time in Rising Hope all the time. I never believed I was college material. Then one day, one of the older guys sat me down and pleaded with me to give it a shot. I was sentenced to twenty-four years when I was 16 years old. I thought my life was over, and I had never even finished high school. Now I am the Executive Director of the largest in-prison degree granting college program in New York. Hudson Link for Higher Education in Prison is the only program in the country that is coordinated by formerly incarcerated people. We are proud that 70% of the staff are formerly incarcerated. I often reflect on my path to this position. I think about my time in Rising Hope and how that year of sitting in classes every day, the professors, and the amazing cohort of students really changed the direction of my life. I am forever indebted to the program and all it has done for me.”
What do our graduates say about Rising Hope, Inc.?
Rising Hope has been a life-changing inspiration for so many people. Here are some of their testimonies:
Pulling a trigger is easy…
Pulling a trigger is easy. You don’t have to think real hard or be brave to do it – most of the time you don’t even have to look somebody in the face. You just squeeze your finger and believe you have the power, but you really don’t. You just got a gun. It’s different when you gotta get up in front of other people and talk, like for a class presentation. You gotta look other people in the face to do that and think in front of them. You gotta expose yourself mentally and wonder if you’re doing it right, or if people think you’re stupid. That’s way more terrifying than the streets.
— written by a Rising Hope Student
There is hope…
As a Muslim, this Christian-based program has shown me that there is hope for the religions of the world to work together.
— Mark Garroway
A spiritual phenomenon…
The Program in Ministry and Human Services is more than an educational service, it is a spiritual phenomenon that inspires hope as it gives new life and purpose through the awakening of the potential that was dormant inside myself and others like me. This program has taught me the value of human commitment to one another as we look beyond our differences and see our similarities.
— Jerry Pitts
Investment in character development…
Because I had the opportunity to attend college prior to coming to prison, I was already familiar with the many advantages education offers. What I was not familiar with was the kind of investment in character development that was a focal point of the Program. It was one of the most formative and significant periods of my adult life.
— Gregory Frederick
The greatest thing I’ve learned while being in prison and in this course is self-forgiveness and how to look into myself before I can critique others or lend my hand to someone in need.
— James J.
I’m learning things that I thought I already knew.
— Rising Hope Student
This program has allowed me to look within myself and has cultivated my potential as a human being. I am indebted to you all and plan to repay by serving as an example of what education can do in a person’s life.
— Juan G.
Violence is not the answer…
My thinking has changed. Violence is not the answer to solving problems. Violence only brings more violence. I have learned that forgiving someone is the right thing to do, because to withhold it only breeds hate inside of you and doesn’t allow you to grow. I have learned that it is not about what religion is best but about your individual relationship with God. So now I don’t get caught up in religion but instead I focus on my own relationship with the Creator. I have decided to cultivate such togetherness with the Lord by beginning each day with Him, before the clamor of the day has a chance to begin.
The Program in Ministry and Human Services has opened my eyes and heart as well as my mind to others’ feelings and beliefs and has been a positive move that I am very thankful for. My reading skills as well as people skills have been greatly improved because of the program and teachers I have had.
— Sylvester D.
An obligation to serve…
The Program in Ministry and Human Services is about more than just the study of religion. It instilled within me an obligation to serve, and to help make a difference in the lives of others, because I learned that is what Jesus did.
The most important way my life changed was by the volunteer professors. In their faces, voices, and actions, I saw, heard, and experienced God. These professors did not accept mediocrity. They were always demanding and challenged me to do my best. I felt obligated to do my best because they gave me nothing less than their best. They helped create an atmosphere of love, respect, and unity among the members of my class. These professors also helped me to adopt the attitude of doing my best in every aspect of my life.
— James A. Russell
“WHO ARE YOU to ask me how I’m doing, and why should I tell you? Why should I tell you that I’m hurting inside? And that I yearn to be respected by my peers even when I give the impression I don’t? Why should I tell you that even though I look strong and muscular and very secure of myself, that at times I feel scared and weak and very insecure? Who are you to ask me if I’m okay? And why should I tell you that at times I’m not okay? That I fight back tears, tears that when I can control them still attempt to surface during the strongest times. What I need is forgiveness. I truly need to be forgiven for all my sins. Who do I turn to, and where is the truth? Is it hidden? If so, why? If you look at me too long you might see me crying. Please don’t watch me cry. You might see me and I don’t want you to see me. Not yet! I’m big! I’m bad! I’m all that and then some. . . until I’m, I’m myself. Then I’m caring, loving. thoughtful, pleasant and happy. Happy because I ripped the old me into microscopic pieces and with the help of a Rising Hope, I’m building a newer, bigger, better Me; a real man. You can watch me cry now because those tears you see are tears of joy!”
— written assignment response from a Rising Hope Student
My time in the Program in Ministry and Human Services has been the best combination of academic and social experience I have ever gone through. The Program in Ministry and Human Services greatly influenced my decision to begin service and ministry to the [Sing Sing] population as a leader in the Alternatives to Violence support group, peer counselor in the AIDS program, and editor of the facility newspaper. I have completed my BS through Nyack College, and attained my Masters of Professional Studies [from NY Theological Seminary].
— Johnny Conyers
A gift of sight…
Participating in the Program in Ministry and Human Services has been an enlightening experience that I do not think I would have found anywhere else. It was a gift of sight, for metaphorically I was living in the land of the blind. It caused me to look inside of myself and examine my own sense of forgiveness, culpability and accountability for my actions past and present. This process of self-examination caused me to change my outlook of what is possible. Since graduating from the Program in Ministry and Human Services, I have become a positive part of the fabric of my community here at Sing Sing. I look forward to becoming a productive member of my family, community and society.
— Rory Anderson
Signals from God…
Before I left Green Haven, I was giving reading assignments to the guy in the cell next to me. I had him read about Jonah. Then I asked him questions. The reason why I told him to read Jonah was his belief that he was ignoring signals from God to change his life around. That’s when I remembered your class. So, I had him read Jonah and showed him through a question and answer period that no matter how he tried, he couldn’t escape God’s call. He got hooked after that and wanted me to give him more assignments.
— Joe S.
Purpose and meaning…
The most significant contribution I received from the Program in Ministry and Human Services was the challenge that it posed. It elicited the best of my mental capacity as it helped me realize I have what it takes to make a difference. I saw little hope and lacked motivation. I now see purpose and meaning in even the small things in life. Having concluded that I can indeed make a difference, not just in my life but the lives of others as well, gives me the energy and motivation to keep on keeping on.
— Luis Vega
I have learned that I can achieve positive things by applying myself if I want. Also I have learned to understand and even respect other individual faiths, which enables me to now be capable of communicating with other people of different races and creeds with no prejudicial opinions. Mainly I have learned that there are some white people with kind and patient hearts.
— Jonathan M.
I have decided to start my reflections from 2 Corinthians 4:7-18 “Treasures in Clay Jars.” I do believe I have found Treasure within this clay jar of mine, and I can truly say that it has been unveiled to me, at least in part, by the Program in Ministry and Human Services.
— Mike S.
The Program in Ministry and Human Services is an integral building block for men in prison who wish to be born again, and lead new lives. I personally believe that there is no greater investment a person can make than to invest in another human being’s life. The Program in Ministry and Human Services invests in the lives of human beings that have been written off.
— Darryl Butler
A sign of growth…
My Islamic thinking and beliefs have not changed. I do appreciate the fact that the Program in Ministry and Human Services has allowed me to grow. I have learned to respect opinions outside of Islam and also to come to common terms with people of other faiths which is a sign of growth. Before entering the Program in Ministry and Human Services I could not and would not hear of anything that was not Islamic. My Islamic conviction is very strong. But I have learned that people of other faiths have strong convictions also. So I came to the conclusion that Allah knows best because He tells us in the Quran that He (Allah) has given everyone a book and a way, and that we should all move forward in good works, and that to Him is our return. I plan on furthering my education so that my dream of becoming an asset to the community becomes manifest.
— Wade Frazier
My participation in the program was and is a blessing. This endeavor required me to exercise diligence. The academic expectations not only broadened my horizons mentally, but they also rigorously stretched my sense of self-discipline. The long nights provided me with a reminder that hard work breeds a well-appreciated sense of accomplishment.
As far as my faith and beliefs are concerned, they were tried, tested, revamped, and reinforced. In other words, my faith and beliefs were taken to a deeper level. Despite the various clashes of ideas, religions, and outlooks, a higher purpose was served when I was forced to open my mind to see outside of my particular box; within which I was previously quite comfortable. The result was a greater propensity to see the common ground with others, rather than merely allowing our differences to prevent cooperation.
— Anthony Knight
My behavior has definitely changed a lot. Prison is a place where a lot of people need counseling. Therefore, I behave like a counselor whenever I get a chance to counsel somebody by studying their body language, listening more, thinking about right time, right place, etc. Sometimes I behave like a philosopher, trying to figure out what is morally good and what is morally evil. My relationship with my family is also better than before. They always loved me and wanted for me to achieve my education, so I am making them happy. It helps us relate much better than before as well because we are having so much to talk about now.
— Prateek S.
Inspiring and fulfilling…
I must admit that participating in the Program in Ministry and Human Services was inspiring and fulfilling. It was a spiritual and academic challenge that opened my mind, strengthened my Rastafarian faith, and brightened my vision. I believe strongly that my outlook and my approach to life has matured more than ever before, helping me to understand that I am an asset, not a liability, to my people and community. Thank you very much for caring and offering your unconditional support. Remember to spread the word that we are not mere convicts, but we are God’s children who made terrible mistakes that we are paying for with our lives.
— Desmond W.
The greater potential…
Max Weber said: “A person can only succeed if he or she recognizes the demon who holds the fiber of his or her very life.” My demon was inferiority. God gets all the glory and the faculty of the Program in Ministry and Human Services gets my deepest reverence. As each of them became a light that reached into my darkness to show me hope. Through this program God took what was evil and turned it to the good. He took my mind out of prison as He turned this prison into a university and allowed me to see the greater potential that He birthed in me the day He gave me life.
I wish to thank each one of my classmates for showing and sharing with me God’s gift that lives in each one of them. I thank my professors for allowing me the honor of being their student. I will use these gifts to be a blessing to others as you have been a blessing to me.
— Jerry Pitts
Not just passing through…
The Program in Ministry and Human Services has changed my way of looking at life. I no longer see life as a place which I am just passing through. I understand that while passing through this life I can stop and make changes for those who will follow behind me.
— Ronnie Y.
Should Jew love only Jew, Christian only Christian, Muslim only Muslim? The Bible, in fact, urges Christians to increase “in love to one another and to all” (1 Thessalonians 3:12, 5:15). How different are we? Do we not breathe the same air, feel the same sunshine on our faces and when it rains does it not fall on all? The Program in Ministry and Human Services teaches this: that those who appreciate God and his purposes are one body.
— Tim M.