The University of New Haven and Yale College recently celebrated several inmates receiving their degrees after enrolling in the schools’ prison education initiative.
In 2016, Yale alum Zelda Roland launched the program at the institution, according to The Associated Press. The idea for the initiative drew inspiration from a similar program while she worked with Wesleyan University. Yale teamed up with UNH in 2021. Together, the system provided a path for student-inmates to earn two and four-year college degrees. Per the outlet, the initiative is included in a consortium involving 15 schools and prison systems nationwide.
“We believe that this is a transformative program, that it has the potential to make a generational impact,” said Roland, director of the Yale-UNH partnership. “We believe that we’re transforming not just individual student’s lives, but also the institutions that we work in, both the universities and correctional system.”
On Friday (June 9), seven men made up the first class to graduate from the partnership between UNH’s Prison Education Program and the Yale Prison Education Initiative. Among them was Marcus Harvin, a parolee. After serving six years, he was released from the maximum security MacDougall-Walker Correctional Institution. He hopes to become a defense attorney after receiving his associate degree in general studies from UNH.
“That name, Yale, means so much because I’m from New Haven, and to be able to study at Yale and begin studying in prison is unheard of,” Harvin shared. “People even think I’m lying sometimes, so I’ll show them my jail I.D. and my Yale I.D.”
At the ceremony, Governor Ned Lamont served as the graduation speaker. He expressed hope that the seven graduates will lead the way for others. “We define our own futures, and today is the start of that,” he said. “You learn from the past, but you define your own future. And what happens in your future is going to be your legacy. And I want you to have a really important story to tell.”
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