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Prison inmates raise over $30,000 for high school student’s tuition

A group of prison inmates stepped up to help pay the tuition to a high school student in California.

Sy Newson Green CNN

A high school student in California was blessed enough to receive financial assistance from none other than a group of inmates at the Soledad State Prison.

According to a report from the Washington Post published Friday (Jan. 1), inmates fundraised money out of their own pocket in order to keep Sy Newson Green enrolled at the Palma School, a Catholic, private high school in Salinas, Calif. The inmates stepped in after Green’s parents suffered unforeseeable health issues that absorbed the funds for their son’s tuition.

Although they have a base pay of eight cents per hour, the inmates began contributing their earnings from their daily jobs in fall 2016. They managed to gather donations from other inmates and even from outside the prison. In total, they were able to raise $32,000 for Green’s tuition over the past three years.

The idea to fundraise for Green was created in a prison-school book group called Exercises in Empathy, a program the Palma School started seven years ago. Prior to the pandemic, juniors, seniors community leaders, and teachers would meet regularly with prison inmates to read and discuss books in an effort to work on the inmates’ self-improvement. Former inmates Jason Bryant and Ted Gray sparked the idea while discussing Ernest Gordon’s “Miracle on the River Kwai.”

“I think that inherently most people, even those of us who have made the worst decision in our lives, want to be a part of something good,” said Bryant told the Washington Post. “This idea when we started was just so good. We can help some young man get a head start that a lot of us didn’t have.”

Green’s journey has caught the attention of numerous media outlets and esteemed world leaders like Former President Barack Obama. “Here’s a story that reminds us of the power of fresh starts, community, and the good that’s in all of us, across the country and around the world,” Obama said about the heartwarming story.

Green, who graduated from the school this year, now attends the Academy of Art University in San Francisco and plays for the basketball team. The 19-year-old is still honored to receive the donations from the inmates and notes that it’s “not something that happens every day.”

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