by Christina Stalnaker, SPP Roots of Success Coordinator. Originally written for and published by SPP. 

Coyote Ridge Corrections Center (CRCC) graduated 16 Roots of Success students November 25th, 2014.  Empowered by what they’ve learned in the course, these inmates were excited to share their experiences at graduation and are ready to become more involved in the sustainability of their facility.  Graduation speakers Travis Turley and Kuoy Chhong discussed how the class changed their views on environmental problems.  Chhong cited a teaching of the First Nations, “we are the protectors of the Earth.”  An avid snowboarder, Chhong wants to be more active in saving our winters to protect the snowpack.

CRCC’s most recent Roots graduates: Kuoy Chhong, Christopher Edwards, Edwin Edwards, Seth Fulmer, Richard Johnson, James Lees, Neil Mitchell, Andrew Quinn, Jayson Smith, Travis Turley, Kimothy Wynn, and Jeffery Willis. These inmates successfully completed the Roots of Success Environmental Literacy Curriculum where they learned about a variety of environmental issues and prepared for re-entry into the green economy. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Next, Turley spoke of a common goal for humanity: “a better life and sustainable future.”  He referred to environmental challenges and said that to him, “this knowledge meant nothing.  It’s not that I didn’t care, I just didn’t know enough.”  Armed with new insights gained through Roots, Turley says he now has, “a chance to hope and a chance to change people like ourselves.” After Chhong and Turley’s speeches Joslyn Trivett, SPP Network Manager, and Christina Stalnaker, SPP Roots of Success Coordinator, gave a virtual tour of SPP throughout Washington State.  Students were curious about existing sustainability projects at CRCC and had questions about what future programs for the institution might be.

Roots of Success Instructor Jason McDaniels welcomes graduates and guests to the ceremony. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

During SPP’s “peer to peer” planning event in June, education and culture change was one of the top three priorities voted for CRCC’s sustainable programming.  Educating inmates on environmental literacy through programs like Roots of Success is but one step towards that goal. CRCC is the nation’s first LEED Gold prison, and  since the structure itself is already so sustainable it presents a unique challenge to find ways to improve.

Thomas Brown, Derrick Martin-Armstead, Jason McDaniels, Jay Powell, and Eugene Youngblood, CRCC’s Roots of Success Instructor staff, stand in front of their new SPP banner. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Offenders are excited about sustainability and  have requested to be a part of CRCC’s Sustainability Committee.  This committee is charged with implementing sustainable initiatives throughout CRCC’s campus.  The first joint staff-inmate meeting will be in January 2015.  We are excited to hear what ideas arise and how recent Roots graduates will be putting their newly acquired knowledge into action!

Christina Stalnaker, SPP Roots of Success Coordinator, and Chuck Hudgins, Correctional Industries Food Group Statewide Sustainability Manager, talk about sustainability project plans and ideas after graduation. Photo by Joslyn Rose Trivett.

Congratulations goes out to all staff and inmates involved in the success of this latest cohort!