“The stories are in the data.”

Since its inception in 2010, Roots of Success has graduated over 25,000 students and trained nearly 2,000 instructors to teach the course. The program has been implemented in 40 states and three countries. The Roots of Success model is unique and empowering, especially when it is taught by incarcerated men and women—sometimes serving long and life sentences—who are trained and certified to teach the course to their peers in prisons throughout the United States. Many incarcerated instructors teach Roots of Success as their full-time jobs within the prison.

This Spring, Roots of Success is fortunate and excited to be working on an external program evaluation with three graduate students from UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy. The students are doing this work as part of the requirements for their Foundations of Public Policy course, a client-based policy project for first-year Master of Public Policy students. The project’s goal? A robust, in-depth program evaluation that will document the impact of the Roots of Success program on the lives of the instructors and students that go through the course, says Founder and Executive Director Raquel Pinderhughes.

“The Goldman team will be analyzing the quantitative and qualitative data that instructors and students hand in after completing the Roots of Success course and that we have compiled over many years, as well as collecting new data in the form of interviews with Roots of Success program directors, instructors, graduates, staff, and key partners. This combination of secondary and primary data will give us a deeper understanding of our impact.“

Chad Flores, Roots of Success deputy director, says this work is important for the organization at this time. “I’m really looking forward to seeing the outcome. This work is tremendously rewarding because it plays such an important role in the lives of those who are incarcerated. The stories of Roots’ impact are told in the data.”

The Goldman students are Semhar Gebrekristos, Scarlett Saunders, and Vanessa Ehrenpreis. The three bring experience and passion to the project with expertise in the areas of program evaluation, environmental education, and criminal justice. “I chose to work with Roots of Success because I believe in its mission of using environmental education as a catalyst for social and economic change,” says Ehrenpreis. “Roots of Success targets its curriculum toward those who have the most to gain from it, such as incarcerated people or disenfranchised high schoolers. I hope that by evaluating the program’s accomplishments in these spaces, we will show how environmental education transforms lives and, by extension, society.”