Mellon Foundation Allocates $3.3M to Prison Education

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is investing $3.3 million in prison education programs that are designed to help inmates reintegrate into society.

“We know that higher-education-in-prison programs reduce violence inside prisons, improve incarcerated students’ ties with family and community in advance of parole, reduce rates of recidivism, and interrupt the cycle of intergenerational poverty,” said Eugene Tobin, senior program officer of the Mellon Foundation. “Prison classrooms can and should also be sites of curricular innovation in the humanities and a pipeline for transfer and reintegration services in partnership with universities and philanthropic supporters. College-in-prison programs represent values that should be at the heart of a democratic society.”

The $3.3 million grant will be divided amongst four recipients.

The first recipient is the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, which offers inmates at the Otisville Correctional Facility who are eligible for release within five years the opportunity to earn college credits during their incarceration.

The second recipient is the Marymount Manhattan College (also based in New York). Funds will go towards supporting its two- and four-year-degree programs offered to inmates at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility for Women. Additional funds will be used to expand these offerings to inmates at the Taconic Correctional Facilities for Women.

The third recipient is California State University, Los Angeles. Not only does Cal State offer BA programs to inmates at Lancaster State Prison, the college also provides post-release services to program participants who wish to complete their degrees at the university’s main campus.

The fourth and final recipient is the Alliance for Higher Education in Prison, a national network dedicated to expanding access to higher education in prison and empowering former inmates by providing post-release services.

“Mass incarceration is linked to mass undereducation, but innovative, proven interventions can address both crises,” said Elizabeth Alexander, president of the Mellon Foundation. “The Mellon Foundation believes in each and every student’s humanity and sees expanding access to higher education in prison as a public good.”


Key Worldwide Foundation at Center of College Admissions Scandal

A California charity is under federal investigation after being linked to the massive college admissions scandal that made headlines early Tuesday. Authorities say The Key Worldwide Foundation was used to launder money from wealthy parents who sought to pay their children’s way into prestigious universities.

The nonprofit is founded and run by William “Rick” Singer, the alleged ringleader of the scheme. Prosecutors say Singer instructed wealthy parents to send him “donation” money through the charity, which the parents could then deduct on their taxes. In return, Singer promised to bribe college administrators and coaches into accepting their children into the university.

“Your generosity will allow us to move forward with our plans to provide educational and self-enrichment programs to disadvantaged youth,” read a letter sent to parents after they donated to the The Key Worldwide Foundation.

As The Los Angeles Times reports, while the nonprofit was supposed to help poor kids obtain an education, the majority of its grants were instead given to elite universities. Colleges involved include Yale, Georgetown, Stanford, the University of Southern California, Wake Forest University, and others.

“For every student admitted through this fraud, a legitimate, talented student was not accepted,” said U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling.

In total, Singer claims to have helped 761 people buy their way into college. And while the majority of Americans would view that as cheating, Singer doesn’t see it that way. Instead, he refers to it as “side doors” to admission.

Prosecutors are charging Singer with racketeering, money laundering, and conspiracy to defraud the U.S.

A total of 50 people have been charged in the bribery scheme thus far, including Hollywood actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. Huffman is best known for her role in the hit TV show “Desperate Housewives,” while Loughlin is known for playing Aunt Becky on “Full House.”


Harvard Business School Grads Give Back to Their Alma Mater

The year was 2013, and it was time for the Harvard Business School Class of 2008’s five-year reunion. As usual, two alumni stepped up to chair the committee that planned the reunion, and as usual, there was a lot of discussion on how to make the event both a fun experience and a meaningful way to fundraise for their alma mater.

Reunion committee co-chair Alex Crisses decided to take on the fundraising element. He had some ideas about what would appeal to his classmates, but he wanted help from a mentor who had a lot of experience in raising funds for Harvard Business School. He found that mentor in Alan “AJ” Jones, who had been involved in HBS fundraising since he received his MBA in 1987.

Together, they formulated a plan that led to a great deal of support for Harvard Business School’s HBS Fund for Leadership and Innovation.

“AJ did a phenomenal job of helping us see the connection between support of the HBS Fund and the priorities of the school,” said Crisses, now a managing director at global private equity firm General Atlantic. “He spoke at our class event in New York about why HBS is important to him. It resonated deeply with our class members.”

As well it should. The HBS Fund for Leadership and Innovation supports four major areas: fellowships, educational innovation, global understanding, and research.

Fellowships are need-based financial aid awards that enable Harvard Business School to attract the most talented students regardless of their financial circumstances. Through its educational innovation initiatives, the fund allows HBS to continue to develop its curricula, most recently adding more hands-on learning and online content. Gifts supporting the development of global cases and courses allow students and faculty to get firsthand experience in markets around the world. Support of research allows faculty to pursue their own ideas without the constraints of sponsored research.

“AJ gave us the blueprint for talking about what the HBS Fund supports,” said Crisses. “Together, we developed a fundraising mantra—educate people about what’s going on HBS and tell them how we are raising money for change and transformation.”

The HBS Fund allows the school to quickly and thoughtfully pursue innovative ideas because, unlike other funds, it is not restricted.

“In business, venture capital or R&D budgets seed the most promising new ideas,” said HBS Dean Nitin Nohira. “In academia, where endowments are generally restricted to donor-defined purposes, there simply aren’t funds earmarked for advancing the next big idea. The school relies heavily on annual gifts to the HBS Fund for early-stage support of breakthrough projects, courses, programs, and other initiatives.”

Given the importance of the HBS Fund for Leadership and Innovation to their alma mater, it’s no small wonder that Crisses, Jones, and many other Harvard Business School alumni enthusiastically support it. It’s a powerful way to directly and immediately support the school in delivering on its mission to build leaders and foster ideas that can help solve the complex challenges facing business and society.


Waitress Receives Life-Changing Tip From Local Big-Hearted Philanthropist

Waitress Receives Life-Changing Tip From Local Big-Hearted Philanthropist

It’s the dream of many a waitperson: to go about your daily work routine until discovering that a patron has left you a generous tip of life-changing proportions. This dream became a reality for Melissa Mainier back in 2010, when one of her regular customers revealed himself to be a prominent philanthropist and offered to pay for her college tuition. Fast forward to 2014: Mainier is no longer working in the food service industry, and has been able to get her college degree and become a nurse, one of her lifelong dreams.

According to The Huffington Post, “Mainier had been on shift at the Peachtree Restaurant and Lounge in Harrisburg, PA, chatting with a regular customer, when she happened to tell him about her money troubles. She was working to pay her way through college, she told the older man, and was struggling under the weight of massive student loans.” Reportedly, the man said that he would like to help her pay for her college tuition, which came as a complete shock to Mainier at the time. How could a man I hardly know be willing to do something so generous? She asked herself.

The man that Mainier had been chatting with was none other than Benjamin Olewine III, a local philanthropist “known in the Harrisburg area for his big-hearted generosity,” The Huffington Post explains. Despite their hardly knowing each other, Olewine identified with Mainier’s tenacious spirit, and knew that he wanted to help her achieve her goals. Reportedly, Olewine’s fortune comes from the food service industry, where four generations of Olewines have thrived and given back to their communities. Olewine III has donated vital funds to local hospitals, academic institutions, wildlife initiatives, arts and cultural programs, and much more.

Perhaps the best part of this uplifting story is the fact that Mainier now works in the very hospital wing that was named for Benjamin Olewine III and his generous lifetime of giving. Both Olewine and Mainier continue to work to pay it forward, and have inspired many people to find ways to be generous in their own lives.

Image via ABC.


Dumpster Project: College Professor to Live and Teacher Classes From a Dumpster for a Year

The Dumpster Project
IMG: via The Dumpster Project

You might feel like you’re willing to do a lot for a cause or for the good of the planet.  Would you live in a dumpster for 12 months or teach classes in one?  Probably not.  That’s what sets Dr. Jeffrey Wilson, a.k.a. “Professor Dumpster,” apart from the rest of us.

Mr. Wilson is an environmental science professor at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas.  Wilson has plans to spend the next year doing as much as humanly possible in what amounts to a shipping crate.  The crazy news is that his employer is totally in on the plan.

The university has agreed to allow Wilson to teach classes, from within his 33 foot crate, on how to convert spaces such as his into “livable,” eco-friendly dwellings.  He plans to first camp out in a sleeping bag on the metal floor of the empty structure which is about one percent the size of a modern American home.

However, here’s where the plan gets interesting.  Wilson and his students will start making adjustments over time.  They will add in energy efficient light bulbs, nano-insulation, and an energy-producing toilet. Taking what they’ve learned, the students are expected to go make energy-efficient switches in their dorm rooms.

According to Wilson, “What we are talking about right now is to start a green movement within historically black colleges and universities (of which Huston-Tillotson is one), and become the flagship school of that, under an initiative called ‘Green is the New Black.’”

If all goes according to plan, Wilson would like to take his show on the road and teach local elementary schools about how to be more sustainable.  He feels like the next generation could be the one to change things.

Is there anyone not completely jazzed by Wilson’s rather unusual choice of residence?  Wilson’s ex-wife has already said their six-year-old daughter will not sleep in a dumpster, period.  I’m going to go out on a limb and say I agree with the ex, as far as children are concerned.

Anyone else willing to give it a try?  If so, it’s a great way to save money on energy, heating, and pretty much every other cost.  Perhaps you could even do it to raise money for a great charity.

Organizations Resources

The Posse Foundation

posse foundation
IMG: via

The Posse Foundation was founded in 1989 to identify high school students with “extraordinary academic and leadership potential” that may otherwise be overlooked by colleges and universities during the selection process. Posse is now one of the best youth leadership development programs in the nation. In the twenty years since it began, Posse partner colleges have awarded $486 million in leadership scholarships to young leaders.

Posse uses an alternative set of indicators to predict academic success in college. It identifies promising students and extends to them the opportunity to join a “posse” of 10 students to pursue personal and academic excellence in a multicultural environment. A select set of universities have partnered with the Posse Foundation and award Posse Scholars four-year, full-tuition leadership scholarships.

The graduation rate for Posse Scholars is an astounding 90 percent—and to think these students may have once been overlooked. Last year, Moody’s CEO Ray McDaniel was awarded the Posse Star Award for Moody’s leadership, support of, and contributions to the Posse Foundation.

“Posse alumni that currently work at Moody’s are extremely competent,” said Executive Director Gus Harris. “I’m also impressed with their professionalism.” Since 2006, Moody’s has hired 18 Posse Scholar interns. CEO RayMcDaniel cites the similarities between the way Moody’s ratings committees work and the way posses work.

“Diversity is valuable because we are in the risk assessment business,” McDaniel says. “We want to make sure we have the widest spectrum of perspectives available in that assessment that we can.”

“The way that posse approaches diverse teams… it’s the same way that we work,” he says, continuing on to joke that, “We probably really should think about renaming our rating committees as rating posses.”

Posse CEO Matt Fasciano praised Ray McDaniel and Moody’s, saying “[they have] been an incredible partner through the Posse Foundation, really helping scholars think ahead to their transition from being leaders on campus to being leaders in the workforce.”

Read our entire profile on Moody’s CEO Ray McDaniel here.