Prisoners at Soledad State Prison raised more than $30,000 for a high school student according to CNN. Seven years the prison’s Correctional Training Facility (CTF) partnered with Palma School, a prep school for boys in Salinas, California. The partnership is to create a reading group to bring the inmates and students together to learn about each other. The group has since become more than just a place to share knowledge and stories, but a bond has formed with the students and inmates.
Recently when one student was unable to pay the $1200 monthly tuition for the school due to familial hardship caused by medical emergencies, the inmates decided to step in.
Jim Michelleti, an English and Theology teacher at Palma said, “I didn’t believe it at first. They said, ‘We value you guys coming in. We’d like to do something for your school…can you find us a student on campus who needs some money to attend Palma?’”
The “Brothers in Blue” program members raised more than $30,000 to create a scholarship for student Sy Green, which will assist him with graduating this year and attending college at The Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Jason Bryant, a former inmate who helped start the program told the news outlet “Regardless of the poor choices that people make, most people want to take part in something good. Guys were eager to do it.”
Bryant who served 20 years for armed robbery and spent his time rehabilitating and turning his life around while earning a bachelor’s degree, two masters, and helping to run leadership training programs for inmates. His sentence was commuted in March. Bryant now works as the Director for Restorative Work at Creating Restorative Opportunities and Programs (CROP), a restorative justice organization. Bryant said hundreds of incarcerated men jumped at the opportunity to help the student. One inmate in particular, Reggie, donated his entire monthly check of $100, “I get paid to do what I do, so, why not pay it forward and give it to someone else for a change?”
While they weren’t able to choose which student their fundraising benefitted, they all agreed that Sy was the perfect candidate. His parents sent him to Palma to avoid the gangs, drugs, and violence prevalent at his neighborhood public school. When Sy’s father, Frank Green, needed to have emergency heart surgery, the family fell on hard times, Frank said the help from the Brothers “brought [him] to tears.”
“At that particular time, it was truly a blessing. It was unheard of,” Frank added.