by Joslyn Rose Trivett, SPP Network Manager. Originally written for and published by SPP. 

“I recently graduated from “Roots of Success” (an environmental literacy curriculum) and during this course my eyes were opened. Prison is its own city. The overhead is huge and anyway we can work together to create the best living conditions, by using the natural resources around us, is the best way.” – Austin Mays

“The program is called Roots of Success, but it feels like the course is a seed planted in our minds.”

“We have a disposable planet and disposable people and we have got to change how we do things. The challenge doesn’t end here; we’ve got to make those changes in the wider society.”

“It’s a platform for giving back to the community.”

This is what I heard from inmate students and instructors who spoke about what they valued from participating in Roots of Success, an environmental literacy curriculum. It was a happy occasion at Stafford Creek Corrections Center (SCCC), celebrating the thirty-five graduates from two complete sessions of Roots. SCCC offered the class at maximum speed: three times a week for ten weeks, and again on the weekend to make up any missed modules; as SPP Liaison Chris Idso said, that’s just how SCCC likes to do things. That’s also what makes them a national leader in corrections’ sustainability programming.

At SCCC, Roots of Success is taught by three inmate instructors (from left to right: David DuHaime, Grady Mitchell, and Cyril Walrond). All three are veterans of the prison’s Redemptions class, an inmate-led program on self awareness, positive thinking, and communication skills. Corrections staff and graduates present for graduation day applauded their talents as Roots instructors, and the next session of Roots of Success is already fully enrolled.

Instructor Cyril Walrond speaks about what the curriculum and class experience meant to him.

The graduating class listens to a presentation from one of their peers.\

Instructor Grady Mitchell addresses the graduating class.

The class watches the 2009 video on SPP, a gorgeous piece by Benj Drummond and Sara Joy Steele that included video and many images from SCCC–including corrections staff who were in the room while it played. It was gratifying and surreal to watch it with an inmate audience.

Robert Aleksinski (“Ski”) is the staff member who has championed Roots of Success at SCCC. He volunteered to be a student in the first session of Roots, and was graduating along with the other 34 inmate students. His enthusiasm for the curriculum and the way they’ve offered it at SCCC is infectious.

Thirty five graduates of Roots of Success receive their certificates and handshakes from Mr. Aleksinski, Instructor Mitchell, Instructor Walrond, Instructor DuHaime, Superintendent Glebe, SPP Liaison Chris Idso, and SPP Conservation Nursery Coordinator for SCCC Drissia Ras.