By Rachel Stendahl, Graduate Research Assistant & Roots of Success Coordinator. Originally written for and published by SPP. 

Roots of Success is an empowering environmental literacy and job readiness curriculum developed by Dr. Raquel Pinderhughes of San Francisco State University. The program is currently active in 34 states, Puerto Rico, South Africa and the United Kingdom. Students can complete up to 10 modules on a variety of environmental subjects including energy, transportation, waste, financial literacy, and social entrepreneurship. The program fosters environmental appreciation, literacy, and career pathways into the green economy.

The Sustainability in Prisons Project initiated Roots of Success in Washington’s prisons after hearing positive reviews from SPP-Ohio. Roots provides a version of the curriculum catered to corrections and reentry programs. The program is already underway in four Washington state correctional facilities: Correctional Industries in Tumwater, Stafford Creek in Aberdeen, Cedar Creek in Littlerock, and Washington State Penitentiary in Walla Walla. So far, approximately 75 inmates have been involved in the program. This number will increase as new classes begin over the next several months. There has also been talk of expanding the program to juvenile correctional facilities in a partnership with Washington State Department of Social and Health Services.

The classes appear to be a great success. The offenders are engaging the material, asking important questions, and working to fully understand the concepts. Many of the participants even say that they want to pursue green jobs after their release.

Students in the Roots of Success class at Cedar Creek Corrections Center work in a small group to address a study question. Photo by Erica Turnbull.