Reentry & Alumni Affairs

Putting education to work

 

A look into the variety of career and professional journeys of BPI alumni upon their returning home to the Greater New York City Area.

What happens when BPI alumni return home from prison?

Everyone returning home from prison faces an extraordinary number of legal and administrative hurdles. More fundamentally, they contend with stigma, distrust, and low expectations at every turn. For BPI alumni, preparation for these challenges begins inside prison with their decision to apply to college and builds through years of intensive academic engagement. As they leave prison, alumni join an extensive network of staff, partners, and most importantly, fellow graduates. Overcoming challenges, BPI alumni thrive in life and work post-release, making unique contributions to the social landscape in New York City and beyond.

“Learning to code made me employable; learning history made that matter.”

—Ornell

Ambition and possibility

BPI combines the advising and career development services of an alumni affairs office with the specialized supports characteristic of a conventional reentry program. The relationship between BPI and students always begins in the classroom. It typically extends for years beyond graduation and release from prison. While still in prison, students access individualized advising and resources designed to help them continue their education, secure housing, and apply for jobs after release. Outside of prison, BPI offers logistical support, academic guidance, and direct connections to professional opportunities commensurate with the talent, ambition and training of BPI alumni. Among those, BPI organizes paid fellowships and internships that provide professional development for alumni as they apply the breadth of their educations in their careers.

These efforts — joined by the college and its alumni together — position qualified, formerly incarcerated people to assume leadership across the human services, advocacy, and public policy fields for generations to come.

BPI alumna.

BPI alumnus standing in cap and gown in front of the Butler Library at Columbia University.

Schools where BPI alumni continue their education

Bard College
Columbia University
City University of New York Baccalaureate for Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies
Hunter College
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
New York University
Yale University

Where BPI alumni work

Bard Prison Initiative
Brooklyn Defender Services
Brooklyn Community Bail Fund
Center for Court Innovation
Ford Foundation
Hugo Neu Corporation
JM Kaplan Fund
The New School
New York City Department of Health
Project EATS
YouthBuild

BPI alumnus in front of computer stations.

By The Numbers

60–70
Alumni who return home annually
85%
Alumni employed within two months of returning home
40+
College and universities BPI alumni have attended post-release

BPI fellowships and internships

Partnering with businesses and nonprofit organizations, BPI offers alumni unique opportunities to learn valuable skills in real work settings where they can focus on career development, community engagement, and establishing their professional networks. Fellowships and internships are paid and typically last between six months and one year. They build on alumni’s exceptional liberal arts educations and on the specialized knowledge they acquired within selected curricular areas of career focus, providing continuity in learning, growth, and professional development.

Public Health Fellowship

In prison, Public Health is a central feature of the BPI curriculum. In New York City, the BPI Public Health Fellowship engages formerly incarcerated women and men in critical  discussions about health equity and neighborhood revitalization. The Fellowship combines academic study, professional development, and job placement as alumni pursue careers in Public Health.

BPI-TASC Fellowship

BPI-TASC Teaching and Tutoring Fellows work within community based organizations to help young adults prepare for the high school equivalency exam and continue on to college. With formal training as writing and mathematics tutors, BPI-TASC Fellows apply their broad educations to inspire and educate others.

Ford Foundation Associate Fellowship

At its headquarters in New York City, the Ford Foundation has established one-year paid Business Associate Fellowships for BPI alumni. The fellowships provide Associates the option of spending their year in three-month rotations among the IT, finance, communications, and human resources departments or dedicating the entire year to one of those four departments.

Urban Farming and Sustainability Fellowship

Drawing from their experience in BPI’s organic gardens and coursework in food systems and sustainability, alumni are often determined to improve food quality and access within their communities after they return home. BPI has partnered with Black Urban Growers, Hawthorne Valley Farms, and Project Eats to offer workshops and placement in a paid internship at a NYC-based community farm or garden.

“What if the person we thought was the problem is actually the solution?”

—Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney

BPI in Action

BPI alumnus sitting onstage at a #CloseRikers event.

Darren Mack is a distinguished member of JustLeadership USA (JLUSA) and actively engaged in the #CloseRikers campaign. Among other awards, JLUSA honored Darren with its Emerging Leadership Award and featured him as a speaker alongside Glenn Martin, John Legend, and the Speaker of the NYC Council, Melissa Mark Viverito. Darren is also the recipient of a prestigious fellowship from the New York Civil Liberties Union’s Community Organizing Institute.

First enrolling with BPI in 2006, Darren received his Associate in Arts degree in 2010. Released in 2012, Darren graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Social Studies from Bard College in 2013. Darren is on the Bard College Alumni/ae Association Board of Governors and earned his MSW focused in Community Organizing & Policy at Hunter College in 2019. Today, Darren is Director of Community Engagement and Advocacy at JustLeadership USA.

BPI alumni in conversation.

BPI’s Public Health Fellowship is a professional development program that cultivates the public health leaders and decision makers of the future. Over a year, Fellows participate in ongoing professional development activities and pursue an independent research project culminating in a symposium where fellows present their research to an audience of public health leaders from across academia and NYC’s community of government and social sector professionals. Public Health Fellows accelerate their career growth through the fellowship, joining a community of formerly-incarcerated public health professionals who are improving the profession and the health of New Yorkers.