Through a new partnership between the University of New Haven and Yale University’s Prison Education Initiative, six men were able to access higher education while incarcerated. In 2021, the initiative announced that a $1.5 million grant donation from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation allowed the program to develop a degree-granting program for aspiring students serving prison sentences in Connecticut. Those on parole were also eligible to participate, with guidance towards careers after their release.
According to the Associated Press, the first cohort of graduates held their ceremony at the prison, with hopes for a brighter future that will be greatly benefited by a college degree from one of the state’s top universities. The men, excited to be known for their academic standing rather than their criminal status, have greater aspirations to pursue esteemed professions, such as law school for one of the program’s graduates, Marcus Harvin.
The program has grown immensely through its funding, expanding to a women’s prison and developing a consortium of 15 schools and prison systems nationwide. The director of the Yale-UNH Partnership, alum Zelda Rowland, spoke on the transformational impact on not only the students but also on both institutions involved.
Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont shared a speech honoring the graduates, touching on the themes of self-determination and resilience that the program garners its strength from. This growing program hopes to affect generations in its reach while also reversing the stigma on those incarcerated and their ability to obtain success.