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From prison cells to Ph.D.: Advocates push to restore college access in prison 

From prison cells to Ph.D.: Advocates push to restore college access in prison 

Facebook/Prison Fellowship

What started as selling drugs as a teenager in Ferguson, Missouri, led to a pattern of more serious poor decisions for Stanley Andrisse as he grew up. 

By his mid-20s, he found himself convicted of three felony drug trafficking charges with a prosecutor calling for 20 years to life in prison. The sharp words said by the prosecutor that day in 2006 stuck with Andrisse. 

As he began a 10-year prison sentence, he contemplated the label he was given by the attorney. Could he really be a “career criminal” with little hope of leaving the criminal lifestyle? 

Looking back on his life choices as a teenager and young adult, he was led at the time to believe that the prosecutor was right. 

“For much of my early incarceration, I saw myself as a bad person,” Andrisse told The Christian Post in a recent interview. “I saw myself as this career criminal. I saw myself as being someone who was hopeless. Once I got out, I thought the only thing that was really left for me to do was to continue doing what I had been doing.”

Stanley Andrisse | Tchad Dublin

But thanks to encouragement from a mentor and his pursuit of higher education, Andrisse turned his life around. 

Today, Andrisse is living proof of the abundance of talent and intelligence living within people imprisoned in correctional facilities across the United States. And if given the opportunity and access to postsecondary education, they are capable of reaching extraordinary heights many never thought possible.

“What we seek to do is really change that narrative around what that potential is [for people in prison],” he said. 

Years removed from his imprisonment, Andrisse is an endocrinologist scientist and assistant professor at Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, D.C., where he is researching Type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance. 

He also holds a visiting professorship at Georgetown University Medical Center and previously held an adjunct position at Johns Hopkins Medicine — a far cry from the career criminal label that had been pressed on him over 13 years ago.

Additionally, Andrisse serves on the frontlines of the growing bipartisan push to restore access to federal postsecondary education grants for people serving behind bars. He also mentors 100 formerly and currently incarcerated people each year as the executive director of a nonprofit called From Prison Cells to PhD (P2P).

P2P is one of many organizations advocating on Capitol Hill for a measure to restore incarcerated students’ eligibility to receive Pell Grants

Pell Grants are a federal subsidy provided to low-income students to help them pay for college and other forms of postsecondary education. The grants are provided to all eligible students who…

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