If you’ve ever been part of a book club, you realize it can be the start of some interesting friendships. Apparently, those friendships may also be somewhat unexpected, such as what happened when inmates at the California Soledad State Prison befriended students at a prep school for boys. It occurred when a partnership was created between the prison and high school students at Palma School in Salinas, California.
The students came together with the prisoners for a singular cause, to discuss the books they were reading. There was also likely some conversation of a personal nature that allowed them to get to know each other. Some of those discussions surrounded a student by the name of Sy Green. Both of his parents had medical emergencies and he was struggling to pay the monthly tuition. That is when the inmates decided to lend a helping hand.
Jim Michelleti, an English and theology teacher, said he didn’t believe it when it first happened. Michelleti was responsible for the creation of the book club. CNN reports that in speaking of the inmates, he said: “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?”
Although the inmates were confined behind bars, they managed to help the student with a scholarship by raising over $30,000. He not only would graduate from the prep school, but he would go to college.
According to CNN, a former inmate and leader in the book club, Jason Bryant, said the inmates were eager to take part in the program. He admitted that some make poor choices, but regardless, most want to take part in something good.
Bryant also admits that he had his fair share of problems in the past, but now, he wants the community to be a better place. He said: “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.”
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Raising $30,000 behind bars is not an easy thing to do, especially considering that you may make as little as eight cents an hour with their standard of minimum wage.
Reggie, one inmate, chipped in his entire paycheck of $100. He told CNN: “I get paid to do what I do, so, why not pay it forward and give it to someone else for a change?”
After the student’s father heard about the scholarship, he was moved to tears. Now Sy and his family go to the prison for regular visits and have formed a relationship with the inmates who were responsible for the kind deed.
Perhaps Bryant summed it up best when saying:
“I don’t feel like myself or my team or the guys who contributed to this incredible gift for Sy are special. We’re just people who want to do good things. If more people just decided to do good things, this world would be a better palace.”Whizzco