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Posts Tagged ‘book club’

Photo: CNN
Sy Newson Green, center, attended a book club at California’s Soledad State Prison while he was a student at nearby Palma School. Jason Bryant, right in blue shirt, is one of the inmates who led the fundraising for Newson Green’s tuition at the Catholic school.

Just to remind you on the day after the Capitol invasion* that good people are still in the majority around these parts, I offer a recent story from California. It’s about prison inmates who received kindness from a local school and found an impressive way to give back. And since the story is about people in prison for serious crimes, it’s also about redemption.

As Lauren Kent at CNN reported in November, “It’s hard to imagine two more different places than an elite private school and California’s Soledad State Prison, which houses the state’s largest concentration of men sentenced to life behind bars.

“But for the past seven years, the two worlds have collided in an unusual way: through a book club. Palma School, a prep school for boys in Salinas, California, created a partnership with the Correctional Training Facility (CTF) at Soledad State Prison to form a reading group for inmates and high school students — bringing the two groups together to learn and develop greater understanding of one another.

“But the reading group has developed into much more than an exchange of knowledge and empathy. When one Palma student was struggling to pay the $1,200 monthly tuition after both his parents suffered medical emergencies, the inmates already had a plan to help.

‘I didn’t believe it at first,’ said English and Theology teacher Jim Michelleti, who created the reading program. ‘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 inmates, who the program calls ‘brothers in blue,’ raised more than $30,000 from inside the prison to create a scholarship for student Sy Green — helping him graduate this year and attend college at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.’Regardless of the poor choices that people make, most people want to take part in something good,’ said Jason Bryant, a former inmate who was instrumental in launching the scholarship. ‘Guys were eager to do it.’

“Bryant served 20 years for armed robberies in which one victim was fatally shot by an accomplice. But while inside Soledad State Prison, he made a daily effort to turn his life around, earning his bachelor’s degree and two masters and running leadership training programs for inmates. ‘I’m never far from the reality that I committed a crime in 1999 that devastated a family — several families — and irreparably harmed my community,’ Bryant said. ‘I keep that close to my heart, and I would hope that people can identify the power of forgiveness and the probability of restoration when people put belief in each other.’

“Bryant’s sentence was commuted in March due to his contributions in restorative work while he was in prison. He now works as the Director for Restorative Work at an organization called Creating Restorative Opportunities and Programs (CROP), which helps equip formerly incarcerated people with tools like skills training and stable housing in order to succeed in their communities. …

“Hundreds of incarcerated men jumped at the opportunity to make a heavy, meaningful investment in someone else’s life. Considering that minimum wage in prison can be as low as 8 cents an hour, raising $30,000 is an astonishing feat. It can take a full day of hard labor to make a dollar inside prison. … Some brothers in blue who had no money to donate even hustled to sell possessions or food so they could be a part of the campaign. …

“Sy and his family started making visits to the prison in addition to taking part in the Palma reading group. He and his family have embraced building relationships with many of the bothers in blue, and four former inmates even attended his high school graduation. …

“The inmates also plan to continue the scholarship program for another student in need. With the help of inmate leadership groups and the CROP organization, they want to keep paying it forward. … Said Bryant. ‘If more people just decided to do good things, this world would be a better palace.’ “

More at CNN, here.

* In the first version of this post, I said the Capitol invasion Wednesday was a first in American history. I stand corrected.

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Photo: Steven Senne/AP
New England Patriots 23-year-old rookie wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell joined a suburban women’s book club when he was at the University of Georgia.

Here’s great story that John sent me. He had been to an event at Life is good and heard a young football player talk about the sequence of events that followed his joining a women’s book club.

Emmett Knowlton wrote about the football player at Business Insider.

“New England Patriots 23-year-old rookie wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell is perhaps the biggest book lover in the NFL and, now, a published children’s-book author — all thanks to a chance encounter in a bookstore.

“In a fun story in The Boston Globe back in May, Mitchell said that when he was a junior at the University of Georgia, he decided to join a suburban, all-women’s book club after a serendipitous meeting with one of the members in the stacks of a Barnes & Noble.

” ‘I was there picking up “Me Before You,” the next book for the club,’ Silverleaf Book Club member Kathy Rackley told The Globe. ‘Malcolm walked up to me and said: “Can I ask you something? Can you recommend a book?” ‘

“Rackley had no idea that Mitchell was a star receiver on the Georgia Bulldogs, but the two got to chatting. When Rackley revealed that she was in a book club, Mitchell asked if he could join, and the two exchanged contact information. …

“Two days later, Mitchell showed up to the meeting. From The Globe

‘ “I didn’t mind [inviting him] at all,” [the hostess] recalled. “Because I didn’t think there was any way he’d show up!” But he did and [impressed] the group with his thoughts and opinions — and his own life experiences. …

“Mitchell continued to participate in the club, and he became a real book lover. According to The Globe, he was often found reading at his football locker, and when it was his turn to recommend a book he made his new friends read Marcus Luttrell’s ‘Lone Survivor.’

” ‘The book club helped me grow into a better individual, a person who learns and grows throughout life in general,’ Mitchell said.

“Mitchell’s current lifestyle has made it difficult for him to regularly attend the club. But he remains an avid reader, and he recently published a children’s book, ‘The Magician’s Hat,’ about the magical powers of reading. He started a foundation, too, called Read With Malcolm, that encourages childhood literacy.” More here.

I love the openness and enthusiasm of a guy who would ask a stranger for a book recommendation and then ask to attend the book club!

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